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The Revolving Door: Waste Management, Monsanto, and the EPA

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), its mission is to ensure “federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively”. The agency is responsible for regulating many of the nation’s largest companies, from large agricultural firms to waste disposal entities.

Most high-level EPA employees have backgrounds in politics or academia, and almost all have law degrees. Several, however, come from the same companies the EPA is supposed to regulate.

The two largest private sector sources for these EPA positions are Monsanto and Waste Management Inc. Since the creation of the EPA in 1970, at least twelve high-level employees of the agency also have one of these two companies on their resume. Tweet it:

Most notably is William Ruckelshaus. He served as the EPA administrator, the agency’s top position, twice, from 1970-1973 and from 1983-1985. While he has a record of working toward environmental improvement, he also has ties to some of the giants in the industry he regulated.

Mr. Ruckelshaus was the CEO of Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), which is Waste Management’s largest competitor and second largest waste disposal company in the world. Like Waste Management, BFI is no stranger to allegations of causing widespread pollution and has gone to court a number of times. The largest of these settlements was out of court for $15 million.

Mr. Ruckelshaus also serves on the board of a number of large companies, including the infamous Monsanto Company.

Monsanto has long been accused of facilitating the ‘Revolving Door’ between its top management and the top positions at the agencies that regulate the company. Monsanto has adamantly suggested it does not try to influence these regulatory agencies in any coercive way through employment and has made public statements on its official website to that effect.

The fact remains that at least a dozen high level EPA employees have come from these two private sector entities and they will likely not be the last.

Gina McCarthy
Gina McCarthy, nominated to lead the EPA, photo credit: umb.edu

It appears, however, the Obama Administration is going in the other direction. The president’s newest appointment for the top spot at the EPA is Gina McCarthy.

McCarthy has over 30 years of experience in the environmental regulations field, both at the state and federal levels. She is a governmental insider unlike the previous individuals appointed to lead the agency.

The McCarthy appointment helps put a spotlight on the tough decisions that must be made concerning one of the most important agencies in the country. Do agencies need a government insider with decades of experience in the regulatory field, or someone with experience in the industry that agency is charged with regulating? Tweet it:

There is no clear answer and it will likely stay that way for some time. For now, it appears that this president feels a government insider is the best choice for the nation.

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The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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