The EPA vs. the Perchlorate Lobby, Take Two

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


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.   

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest