Trump’s Chemical Romance: Conflicted Officials Contaminate Trump’s EPA

By Rick Claypool

President Donald Trump has staffed his administration with lobbyists, lawyers and former employees from the chemical industry and its allies.

A new Public Citizen report, “Trump’s Chemical Romance” identifies 146 high-ranking Trump administration officials with ties to the corporate coalition pushing to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chemical Disaster Rule. The actual total is undoubtedly higher.
The report found:

  • 15 Trump EPA appointees with conflicting ties to the RMP Coalition and the industry sectors its corporate coalition members represent.
  • 13 Trump appointees in the White House with conflicting ties to the RMP Coalition and the industry sectors its corporate coalition members represent.
  • 57 Trump appointees with conflicting ties to the American Chemistry Council and/or its member corporations.
  • 92 Trump appointees with conflicting ties to chemical and petrochemical corporations and groups with ties to the industry.
  • 146 Trump administration appointees with conflicting ties to the RMP Coalition and the industry sectors its corporate coalition members represent.

In an effort to delay and weaken the Chemical Disaster Rule, groups representing chemical and petrochemical corporations, along with allies affiliated with coal-fired power plants, paper mills and corporate groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, formed an alliance called the RMP Coalition (named for the EPA’s “Risk Management Program,” the formal name for the Chemical Disaster Rule.)

The RMP Coalition also includes the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG).

The RMP Coalition successfully petitioned disgraced former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to delay and weaken the Chemical Disaster Rule.

Pruitt’s new version gives in to industry’s demands – in Pruitt’s words, it “proposes to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens,” in order to save the industry as a whole an estimated $88 million per year – that is, about 0.1 percent of chemical giant (and American Chemistry Council member) DowDupont’s 2017 profits. A single chemical disaster can cost upwards of $200 million.

Specifically, the Pruitt EPA’s weakened version of the rule:

  • Rescinds the requirement that facilities that experience a catastrophic chemical release or a near miss must conduct a root cause analysis, which would ensure that the industry learns essential safety lessons from disasters and near-disasters.
  • Guts Safer Technology and Alternatives Analyses, which is intended to minimize the quantities of hazardous substances facilities use and encourage substitutions of less harmful substances when possible, as well as encourage additional safety measures.
  • Eliminates the requirement that corporations that stockpile hazardous chemicals make information about their facilities available to the public, essentially prioritizing corporate secrecy over public safety. Without commonsense disclosures, first responders and community members won’t even know what kinds of hazards they could be exposed to.

The public comment period for Pruitt’s weakened version of the rule ends on Thursday, August 23. There’s still time to tell the EPA: Don’t roll back the Chemical Disaster Rule.

The 146 administration members with ties to the RMP Coalition and the industry sectors its corporate coalition members includes 57 appointees with conflicting ties to the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s primary corporate coalition, and 92 appointees with conflicting ties to the chemical and petrochemical industries, including Dow Chemical Corporation, Arkema Chemical, BP, Chevron and Koch Industries.

The officials and their industry affiliations were identified via a review of ProPublica’s Trump Town database, which compiles Trump administration appointees and makes their financial disclosures easily accessible. The full spreadsheet of Public Citizen’s analysis is available here.