Another Hall of ShameBy Charles Margulis
Yesterday, for the first time since 1996, no players were chosen for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many first-time nominees, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and several others were considered reputation-damaged, steroid-tainted players. In the run-up to the vote, the New York Times noted that this years’ scurrilous Hall of Shame nominees would hardly be exceptional additions in Cooperstown, which is already stocked with racists, gamblers, and drug users, among other miscreants.
But another Hall of Shame deserves some new (and some returning) inductees this year. Below, our choices (some current and some lifetime achievement nominees) for the corporate Hall of Shame.
Flame retardant chemical companies: The flame retardant industry deserves a lifetime achievement spot, based on their decades-long campaign (in concert with the tobacco industry, as the Chicago Tribune exposed in 2012) to mislead the public about their harmful products. The industry’s now defunct front group Citizens for Fire Safety and their lead “expert” witness Dr. David Heimbach deserve special mention for their dirty tricks campaigns and lying to public officials.
Alpha Natural Resources: The largest mountaintop removal mining company, Alpha took over the notorious Massey Energy company, after that corporate criminal’s deadly Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster nearly sunk the company. According to the Appalachian Community Health Emergency, mountaintop removal mining sites are responsible for “shockingly disproportionate levels of cancer, heart disease, pulmonary disease, birth defects and other physical and mental illnesses. More than four thousand people die in West Virginia communities every year because they live near such sites.” Local residents and environmental groups have sued Alpha repeatedly for its polluting operations, but the company remains unabashed. After another mining company recently acknowledged the damage from mountaintop removal and reached a legal agreement to phase-out such operations, Alpha told reporters, “(T)his does not affect our mining plans.”
Monsanto: A shoe-in for lifetime achievement in creating polluting products (among other crimes and lies), Monsanto makes it this year for serving as the chief funder of the lie-filled campaign against California’s GMO labeling ballot initiative. With upcoming GMO labeling votes in New Mexico, Washington and other states, expect Monsanto to be a perennial Hall of Shame inductee.
Apple: Apple appeared to dodge the shameful bullet early last year, when reports on the company’s labor practices focused on the embellishments in a one-man show about the company and not on the documented abuses. In the fall, further reports of misdeeds by the company’s Foxxconn i-Phone contractor showed it was business as usual at Apple. Also in 2012, Apple quietly withdrew from the environmental standards group EPEAT, then returned to the group and won questionable approval for their environmentally-questionable MacBook Pro.
Bayer: Bayer makes the list this year for their neonicotinoid pesticides, chemicals that scientists have linked to bee colony collapse. The EPA gets an assist for this nomination: in 2003 the agency granted a “conditional” approval for clothianidin, the company’s widely sold neonicotinoid. Despite failing to meet the registration’s conditions, and despite the latest science about potentially devastating loss of bee populations, EPA ten years later still allows the company to sell the nasty pesticide. The problem is so bad that even the financial journal Forbes posted a plea last year for signatures on a petition to Bayer to stop production of the product.
Dennis Paustenbach: A Hall of Shame award for worst individual in service to dirty industries goes to Paustenbach, who has a long track record of shameful behavior. CEH first exposed Paustenbach in 2003, when he served on a state science panel convened to investigate massive water pollution by PG&E (including the revelations uncovered by Erin Brockovich in Hinckley, CA). Turns out Paustenbach had received large payments during his career for work with PG&E, but he claimed he had not worked for the company in years. In fact, at the time the panel was convened Paustembach’s company had a contract to work for PG&E on hexchrome. Given this history, we were not surprised when the Chicago Tribune outed Paustenbach for his contributions to the flame retardant industry’s dirty public relations campaign (see above).
Shell Oil: According to a UN report, the gas company (known formally as Royal Dutch Shell) holds primary responsibility for 50 years of oil pollution that devastated the Ogoniland region of Nigeria, part of the Niger Delta, home to 31 million people and one of the world’s most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems. Yet the company has evaded responsibility for the damage caused by its hugely profitable oil operations. Last year, four Nigerian villagers again took Shell to court, this time to Dutch civil court in The Hague, the first such suit in the company’s home country. Shell denied responsibility, blaming Nigerian saboteurs for decades of the company’s pollution.
Aqua Bounty: The GMO salmon company is bemoaning the lengthy government review of their Frankenfish, which if approved would be the first lab-created animal food species allowed, unlabeled, into the food supply. This may not sound like something you’d want to rush to the dinner table, but if you complain, company CEO Ron Stotish thinks you’re just being “disingenuous.” This from a company that claims that releases of its GMO fish into the wild would be virtually impossible – unless you count the previous accidental release of their entire 2008 commercial-sized batch. Surely we should trust a company that’s always been open to the public – except when it came to light last year that in 2009 Aqua Bounty’s GMO fish were hit with a new form of a common salmon disease, a problem the company failed to report to the FDA in its lengthy approval documents.
The nuclear power industry: The industry gets a lifetime achievement nod for their hilarious yet tragic “too cheap to meter” promises, given the failure of virtually all nuclear plants to be financially (let alone environmentally) sustainable without massive taxpayer subsidies (as outlined in this brief list of nuclear boondoggles). Fukushima was mostly reported as a “natural disaster,” but was actually the result of decades of mismanagement, lies, and “missed” inspections by Tepco. Similar problems at U.S. nuclear plants at San Onofre, Indian Point, and other plants came to light in 2012. (Looking for a fun party game? Everyone picks the name of a nuclear plant and googles it with the word “mismanagement.” Whoever gets the most results wins!)
The nuclear weapons complex: Another lifetime achievement shoe-in, for 2012 the nukers win a special award for the industry most likely to be toppled by your grandmother. Last year, one of our nation’s most guarded nuclear facilities was breached by an 82-year-old nun, Sister Megan Rice, who with her colleagues passed through four fences and walked around for two hours inside the Oak Ridge, Tennessee nuclear weapons facility. As Sister Megan told the New York Times, the group breached the plant to demonstrate against “(T)he criminality of this 70-year industry. We spend more on nuclear arms than on the departments of education, health, transportation, disaster relief and a number of other government agencies that I can’t remember.” This is hardly the first successful action by an octogenarian against the nuke weapons industry, and not even the first at Oak Ridge: in 2011, Father Bill Bichsel, an 86 year-old priest from Tacoma, Washington and 12 others were arrested for breaching the fences at Oak RidgeTags: corporate crime, environment, GMO, health, mountaintop removal, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, OLD: Electronics, OLD: Pesticides