XI. THE EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC
While the chemical industry had extensive access to federal policymakers, the public was largely shut out. Although USTR held two small meetings for public interest nongovernmental organizations, the concerns of these groups appear never to have been seriously considered. On November 11, 2002, more than 50 public health professionals, labor unions, children’s health advocates, environmental organizations, and community groups wrote to President Bush to express their concerns about the U.S. efforts to undermine proposed reforms of the European Union chemicals policy.
The letter stated:
We urge the U.S. government to recognize the potential benefits to American consumers and businesses and cease all efforts to undermine EU chemicals policy reforms. . . . The [U.S. position] runs counter to the public interest and to the transparency that is critical to our democracy. For this reason, we request that the Administration, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Trade Representative, Commerce Department, and State Department, solicit public comments from the American people — including but not limited to NGOs and business — to formulate a forward looking position on chemicals policy and prepare for new economic realities of the 21st century.54
On September 9, 2003, more than 70 public health professionals, physicians, nurses, children’s health advocates, environmental organizations, and community groups again wrote to the President to urge the Administration to discontinue efforts to oppose REACH and constructively engage in efforts to protect public health. The letter states:
We request that you instruct key officials within your administration to stop using federal funds to undermine this important proposed legislation, and seek ways to support progressive reform of chemicals policy that benefit public health.55
These individuals and groups never received a response from the President.
The International Herald Tribune reported on May 8, 2003, that at public meetings the Commerce Department and industry groups would discuss their opposition to REACH.56 Similarly, William Lash, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, told the trade press that the Commerce Department was planning a series of town meetings around the country to prepare U.S. companies to comment on the European policy.57 But when public interest organizations inquired about the meetings and the possibility of participating, Commerce Department officials provided vague, unresponsive answers. 58 Ultimately, the public meetings appear to have been cancelled. Environmental groups such as the Environmental Health Fund that closely followed the development of the REACH initiative are not aware of any public meetings held to offer the public a chance to comment on the proposal.59
There also does not appear to have been any independent analysis of the REACH proposal or its environmental or economic impacts conducted by the Administration. None of the documents obtained by the Environmental Health Fund since April 2001 under the Freedom of Information Act or from other sources indicate that government scientists or other experts independent from the chemical industry were ever called upon to analyze the REACH proposal.60
Taken together, the documents described in this report provide a case study of how a well-connected special interest can reverse U.S. policy and enlist the support of numerous federal officials, including a cabinet secretary, to intervene in the environmental policies of other countries. Under President Clinton, the United States adopted a policy of recognizing the authority of other nations to act
to protect their public health and environment. At the urging of the chemical industry, however, the Bush Administration reversed this policy and actively opposed European Union efforts to improve the regulatory system for chemicals. The Administration’s opposition to the initiative was extensive, involving multiple government agencies, cables from Secretary of State Colin Powell, and an international lobbying strategy closely coordinated with representatives from industry. Ultimately, the European Union adopted numerous changes proposed by the Administration.
Here’s where the entire report can be located
Sorry – they have removed the report and the link is no longer accessed above. Still trying to find the other documents as well. The link I put above was to the investigation including all the documents – it’s no longer there. They removed the entire investigation from the Oversight & Government Reform site.