The EPA vs. the Perchlorate Lobby, Take Two

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Earlier this year MoJo bureau chief David Corn looked at the fierce tug-of-war in Washington over an obscure chemical called perchlorate. Over the years, perchlorate, which is used in rocket fuel and fireworks, has leaked from industrial and military sites into the water supply of as many as 40 million Americans. It’s been linked to neurological problems in small children, and the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed it hazardous to humans. For many years environmental advocates have wanted the government to establish limits on how much perchlorate can safely be present in drinking water. And for many years, perchlorate manufacturers have resisted, hiring the top-dollar help of lobbyists like former Nevada Democratic senator Richard Bryan. Thanks to their assistance, the EPA under the Bush administration refused to regulate perchlorate, even though the agency’s own scientists had urged that it do so.

On Tuesday, however, the EPA set the stage for another big perchlorate showdown: It announced that it is considering regulating the chemical and is particularly concerned about its health effects on children. The agency’s new chief, Lisa Jackson, is already on record favoring a standard of five parts of perchlorate per billion parts of drinking water. But as David shows in his piece, the lobbyists for perchlorate firms are well-funded and skilful—and those with Democratic ties, like Bryan, will arguably wield more influence in Obama’s Washington than they did during the era of Republican dominance. They’ll doubtless be working hard behind the scenes to head off the EPA’s new regulatory enthusiasm. We’ll let you know how this plays out.   


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