GreenYes Archives

[GreenYes Archives] - [Thread Index] - [Date Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]

[greenyes] What Sound Science Means in America Today

This expose about industry corruption of the technical process in regard to
chromium standards in New Jersey restores faith in the core capacity and
continuing vitality of the media when inspired. I can only provide excerpts
here, but strongly encourage everyone to go to the Star-Ledger's web page to
review the full article. I would also like to encourage everyone to pass
the article along to their circle of collegues and friends.


March 7, 2004

Weakened rules a boon to 3 polluters
Work of scientist paid by the firms viewed skeptically by other experts
Star-Ledger Staff

Early last decade, three companies responsible for widespread chromium
pollution in Hudson and Essex counties faced a decision.

They could spend hundreds of millions of dollars cleaning up contaminated
sites, or they could try to persuade the state Department of Environmental
Protection to relax its limits on the cancer-causing toxin.

The companies -- now known as Honeywell, PPG Industries Inc. and Maxus
Energy Corp. -- chose the second option and hired a California scientist
named Dennis Paustenbach to press their case.

Over the next decade, Paustenbach and his team of scientists succeeded
wildly. When they started out, New Jersey's limit for the most dangerous
form of chromium was 10 parts per million in soil. Now it has reached
6,100 parts per million -- among the least stringent standards in the

The DEP's policy change -- forged gradually under the administrations of
Govs. James Florio and Christie Whitman -- saved the companies an
estimated $1 billion in cleanup costs. In some cases, they have been able
to walk away from polluted sites without removing a single shovelful of

The companies and Paustenbach maintain they succeeded through sound science.

"We published 20 or 30 papers," said Paustenbach, who has a doctorate in
environmental toxicology from Purdue University. "That information is used
throughout the world to make decisions on contaminated soil."

But a close look at his work in New Jersey, including interviews with
dozens of state scientists and outside experts, shows that the state's
revised chromium standards were not simply the product of new scientific

Scientists at the state's environmental agency said supervisors sided with
Paustenbach and his team at nearly every turn. Lobbying records show the
companies poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into changing
politicians' minds about chromium. Independent scientists remain skeptical
of Paustenbach's chromium research, and have launched their own studies
into his central claims.

Give and take between hired scientists and regulators is routine in the
world of environmental protection. As the dangers of some industrial
chemicals came to be more widely understood in the 1970s and '80s,
government agencies at times imposed severe limits, only to loosen the
restrictions after scientists developed more definitive data.

What sets the 15-year struggle over New Jersey's chromium rules apart from
similar disputes is the magnitude of the companies' effort to influence
state policy, and the lingering questions about the quality of their

Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

[GreenYes Archives] - [Date Index] - [Thread Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]