Environment Virginia: Polluters spending $5M to pollute Virginia politics

newspaperThe owner of Honeywell International, Inc. spent $5,140,000 on lobbying in a single year, according to a new report by Environment Virginia. The enormous spending came after the Hopewell Plant dumped 170,077 pounds of toxic chemicals into Virginia’s James River in 2012.

Environment Virginia released its “Polluting Politics” report shortly after the introduction of a House bill to block the EPA’s clean water rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of waterways in Virginia and across the country.

Fortunately, Virginia has clean water champions in Congress like Representatives Bobby Scott and Gerry Connolly, who are standing up for waterways we love.

“As it turns out, the same companies that are polluting our rivers with toxic chemicals are also polluting our politics with their spending,” observed Jessie Mehrhoff.

Environment Virginia’s report links discharges of toxic chemicals as reported in the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2012 with federally reported campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures.

A major finding of the report includes:

Honeywell International Inc.’s Hopewell, VA Plant dumped 170,077 pounds of toxic pollution into the James River watershed in 2012. Its owner, Honeywell International, Inc., spent $5,140,000 on lobbying and $4,740,477 on campaign contributions in 2014.

“This report from Environment Virginia is a reminder that getting a handle on big money in politics is an essential first step toward solving a variety of critical national problems. If you want cleaner air and water, or other action to combat climate change, or rules that will stop Wall Street from recklessly gambling on our economy, you should be working to curb the power of big money in politics. If you’re concerned about the crushing burden of student loans, or the appalling economic gap between the top 1 percent and the rest of us, you should be working to curb the power of big money,” said Dale Eisman, acting director of communications at Common Cause.

Right now, polluters are lobbying their allies on Capitol Hill to derail EPA’s plan to restore Clean Water Act protections to 28,000 miles of streams in Virginia. Loopholes in the law currently leave the waterways that feed the drinking water for 2 million Virginians at risk.

“It’s clear that Virginia’s polluters have deep pockets, but thousands of Virginians have raised their voices in support of doing more to protect the James River and Chesapeake Bay,” Mehrhoff said. “It’s time for Congress to listen to citizens, not the polluters, and let the EPA finish the job to protect our waterways.”

Virginia’s residents are not alone in their concern for unchecked pollution, businesses also rely on the health of state waterways to protect and promote the local economy.

“People’s relationship with the James River is mostly a matter of quality of life,” said Matt Perry, President of Riverside Outfitters. “We depend on it for our drinking water and for a healthy ecosystem with clean air and safe food. It delivers economic development, tourism and entertainment. It delivers a landscape that people marvel at are attracted to.”

 

Update: Comment from Honeywell “In its press release this week, Environment Virginia questioned the environmental record of Honeywell’s Hopewell facility. The group’s report fails to note that the reported  discharges to the James River are done legally under state and federal regulations set to protect water quality standards and that Honeywell has active programs to reduce the amount it discharges into waterways. In the past five years, Honeywell has invested more than $170 million in its Hopewell plant, including more than $66 million in environmental control projects that directly support the health and safety of our employees and the communities surrounding our facility. In addition, Honeywell has actively supported environmental projects and organizations in the Hopewell area including partnerships with the James River Association and our local schools.”

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