Pesticide’s Elin D.Miller & The Revolving Door at EPA (10/10/07)

Photo of Elin D. Miller, who has parlayed a B.S in Agronomy/Plant Protection from the University of Arizona and a history at Dow and her own pesticide company into a job at EPA as Regional Administrator for the Pacific Northwest.

To review this post at Newstrust, go here:

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Whether the issue is birth control or global warming or clean air, this administration has already acquired a special place in regulatory history for the audacity with which it has manipulated or muzzled science (and in some cases individual scientists) that might discomfit its industrial allies or interfere with its political agenda.

–New York Times editorial of December 11, 2006, “Muzzling Those Pesky Scientists.”

Remember the EPA cap and trade mercury scandal? Its lies to the public that Ground Zero was safe? And the Boston Globe’s Charlie Savage was on CSPAN yesterday talking about his book (for a detailed discussion Boston Globe chat transcript) on the imperial presidency and how Bush had placed a stranglehold on career employees, requiring approval before they even proposed new safety regulations in the Federal Register. (I’m still looking for a link to said executive order and will write Savage if I can’t find it.)

The administration’s waylaying of science and its accession to desires of industry at the expense of public safety drew my attention to this link at Governing.com today: “EPA approves new pesticide despite scientists’ concerns.” After reading Marla Cone’s October 6 Los Angeles Times article, I had to wonder:

  • What had persuaded the EPA to ignore a letter from 54 scientists and physicians about the dangers of methyl iodide, after dropping its plan to approve the fumigant in April 2006?
  • What had caused the agency to deny the scientists request for an independent study by the National Research Council?

As Robert Bergman (bio, email), the Gerald E. K. Branch Distinguished Professor at UC Berkeley’s chemistry department, told Cone:

If they’re right, they shouldn’t be afraid of an independent review. I don’t know what the motivation is to get this stuff approved so fast. If there is any possibility that it would be dangerous, do you not approve it, or do you approve it and then decide, after something happens, to change your mind? There is serious potential for accidents.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports,

The Pesticide Action Network of North America asked the chemists to write the letter after government scientists complained anonymously that EPA higher-ups had warned them not to tell opponents about its pending approval.

Cone’s disclosure halfway down the second page jumped out:

The manufacturer, Arysta, has spent eight years and more than $11 million collecting toxicological and environmental data to persuade the EPA to register methyl iodide as a pesticide.

Arysta’s former chief executive, Elin Miller, is now a top official at the EPA…

It turns out, according to the Arysta LifeScience’s news release of October 8, that its fungicide, which it markets under the name Midas:

has been in use under an Experimental Use Permit (EUP) in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia since 2006.

Miller’s official bio at the EPA says she joined the the agency October 30, 2006 from the “crop protection company” she led. Prior to that she worked at Dow, which hired her sometime after her stint as Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation . She has also served as Chair of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE).

At least RISE sounds benign. Something that the late Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, would fund? A quick look on Sourcewatch reveals it to be:

an affiliate of CropLife America, with which it shares a Washington, D.C. office. RISE, a lobbying and public relations trade organization, defends the “urban usage” of pesticides in homes, schools, and landscapes. It also defends “urban vegetation control.”

RISE has what it describes as “an excellent working relationship with” the Environmental Protection Agency.

And if you think Miller’s step through the revolving door between industry and the EPA is an exception rather than the rule, a search the Center for Responsive Politic’s database reveals a list of 99 folks. And Miller’s not even one of them!

UPDATE: Mike LaBonte, evaluating this story at Newstrust, wrote, “

At the time of her appointment, environmentalists were wary. Carol Dansereau, director of the Farm Worker Pesticide Project, a nonprofit that works on pesticides and farmworker rights in Washington, told Warren Cornwall of the Seattle Times,

It doesn’t bode particularly well for her taking a strong stance on improving protections.

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