Hillary Clinton Backed Off Crackdown on Chemical Dangerous to Pregnant Women After Dow Chemical Joined Clinton Global Initiative

Greg Allen/Invision/AP
Greg Allen/Invision/AP

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hillary Clinton said that a dangerous chemical could harm pregnant women and infants and needed to be regulated, but she appears to have backed away from the issue after the nation’s largest corporate producer of the chemical started partnering with and eventually giving money to the Clinton Global Initiative and an advisory firm linked to former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton is battling for the African-American vote ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary by focusing on the Flint water crisis.

Clinton’s personal and financial relationship with the CEO of Dow Chemical, which produces the industrial solvent Trichloroethylene (TCE), sheds light on the innerworkings of the Clinton financial empire and reveals Clinton’s willingness to take money from interests that she once publicly challenged.

 Hillary Clinton said that TCE was a danger to pregnant women and infants

Clinton wrote a letter to then-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Stephen L. Johnson on October 5, 2005 stating that children and seniors are vulnerable to the toxic effects of TCE, which is mostly used as a metal degreaser, and urging the EPA to take action to stop the chemical from harming people.

“Endicott, Hopewell Junction and Ithaca are known to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds where TCE is also known to be present,” Clinton’s Senate office said in a press release at the time touting her letter.

The political pressure on Clinton and other New York lawmakers at the time was intense due to a case in Hopewell Junction where vapor intrusion caused by contaminated underground water reportedly seeped into the air in people’s houses, causing public health concerns among residents. The EPA reportedly found pollution in the well water in at least five homes in Hopewell Junction while testing to determine if TCE was present.

Clinton wrote:

We are writing to urge the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish health-protective “interim standards” for vapor intrusion of trichloroethylene, better known as TCE. TCE is a widespread contaminant found in at least 325 of the 1,242 EPA-listed Superfund sites, and is known to cause cancer and damage the nervous and immune systems. Children and seniors are especially vulnerable to TCE’s toxic effects…

…Delaying a national standard is a major constraint in evaluating potential health concerns at toxic waste sites. Some current federal and state TCE standards are more than two orders of magnitude less protective than the EPA’s 2001 reassessment concluded was needed to protect human health. Today, thousands of Americans may be exposed to unhealthful levels of TCE.

We, therefore, strongly urge the EPA to adopt health-protective “interim standards,” or provisional screening levels set forth in the 2002 Draft Guidance and use technologies that detect TCE at such levels. The EPA should protect public health by eliminating TCE resulting from vapor intrusion in homes, as field experience suggests that the costs of mitigation and monitoring are comparable.

TCE is a widespread pollutant in the United States and vapor intrusion is known to be a significant pathway of exposure. Guidelines have been established to address this important environmental and health problem. The EPA needs to act now to establish safe, protective “interim standards” in order to ensure the health and safety of our children and our communities.

Clinton took the lead in signing that letter, which was also signed by seven other senators. The issue continued to bounce around on the margins of Capitol Hill.

Dr. Thomas Sinks, deputy director for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry within the Department of Health and Human Services, testified before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee in June 2007 on the potential health hazards posed by TCE.

“TCE is a colorless liquid which is used as a solvent for cleaning metal parts,” Sinks stated. “Occupational exposure to TCE may cause nervous system effects, kidney, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, and possibly death. Occupational exposure to TCE also has been associated with adult cancers such as kidney cancer, liver and biliary cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. TCE in drinking water has been associated with childhood leukemia in two studies and with specific birth defects such as neural tube defects and oral clefts in one study.”

On August 1, 2007, Clinton introducedthe TCE Reduction Act of 2008 as the bill’s lead sponsor. The text of the bill made clear that “pregnant women, infants, and children” are vulnerable to TCE’s toxic effects.

According to Clinton’s bill:

“Amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish a health advisory for trichloroethylene that fully protects, with an adequate margin of safety, the health of susceptible populations (including pregnant women, infants, and children), taking into consideration body weight, exposure patterns, and all routes of exposure.

Requires the Administrator to promulgate a national primary drinking water regulation for trichloroethylene: (1) that is protective of susceptible populations; and (2) the maximum contaminant level of which is as close to the maximum contaminant level goal for trichloroethylene, and as protective of those susceptible populations, as is feasible.”

Requires consumer confidence reports to disclose the presence of, and the potential health risks to susceptible populations from exposure to, trichloroethylene in drinking water.

Requires the Administrator to: (1) publish a health advisory for trichloroethylene that fully protects the health of susceptible populations from vapor intrusion; (2) establish an integrated risk information system reference concentration of trichloroethylene vapor that is protective of susceptible populations; and (3) apply such reference concentration with respect to any potential vapor intrusion-related investigations or actions to protect public health with respect to trichloroethylene exposure carried out pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 and the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

Seven Senate co-sponsors signed on to the bill, including Democrats Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, Frank Lautenberg, Bill Nelson, and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Republican Elizabeth Dole and independent Joe Lieberman.

But the bill never made it to a Senate floor vote, even though Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Dick Durbin could have brought it to a vote. When the 110th Congress came to an end in January 2009, the bill was simply washed away, having sat for nearly a year and a half. Clinton, who was gearing up to run for president when she introduced the bill, could have burnished her credentials as an environmentalist by fighting the bill into law.

What happened?

Enter Dow Chemical

Shortly after Clinton introduced her bill, the nation’s largest producer of TCE partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and eventually became a CGI sponsor.

“Dow is one of two companies that produce trichloroethylene in the United States,” according to Dow Chemical Company documents. “Dow produces trichloroethylene in Freeport, Texas. In 2011, global consumption of trichloroethylene was 429,500 metric tons (947 million pounds) versus global production capacity of 547,000 metric tons (1,206 million pounds).”

Dow Chemical pledged a $30 million loan guarantee for a clean-water program in India at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. Dow chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris announced the loan while appearing at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City between September 26-27, 2007, less than two months after Clinton introduced the TCE Reduction Act.

The loan guarantee was announced in an October 2, 2007 press release by the Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire:

The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW), in conjunction with WaterHealth International (WHI), revealed last week its commitment to provide $30 million of loan guarantees to support the financing of up to 2,000 WHI community water systems, serving 11 million people in rural India. This commitment was highlighted at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2007 Annual Meeting, an invitation-only gathering of heads of state, CEOs and other global leaders from around the world. With this commitment, Dow and WHI are combining efforts to address the global challenge of more than one billion people without access to safe, clean drinking water.

According to Dow’s own website, Dow “joined” CGI in 2007:

In 2007, Dow joined Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which convenes global leaders to create and implement solutions to global poverty. As part of its commitment, the company has announced support for multiple projects including collaborations with Acumen, the100Kin10 teacher development effort, the National Science Teachers AssociationChemical Educational Foundation, and Capital Area Technical College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Liveris hung around in Clinton-World and became a trusted friend to Hillary and Bill. Dow contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2014.

Dow was a sponsor of the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in 2010 and 2011. Liveris was a featured attendee at the 2012 meeting.

Liveris gave Bill Clinton use of a Dow company airplane in 2009 when the former president went to North Korea to successfully negotiate with Kim Jong Il for the release of two American journalists being held in the country.

Liveris allegedly bought $300 worth of flowers for Hillary Clinton personally and charged it to Dow Chemical, according to a recent whistleblower lawsuit against the company.

Dow Chemical Also Partnered With Teneo

Dow Chemical’s relationship with Clinton-World also extends to the private sector, where the company works with Teneo Holdings, the New York City corporate advisory firm founded by notorious former Bill Clinton right-hand man Doug Band.

A former Dow employee claimed in a whistle-blower case that Dow began paying $16 million per year to Teneo while Teneo was working as a contractor for Liveris’ Greece-focused charity The Hellenic Initiative. Dow’s payments to Teneo reportedly ballooned from $2.8 million in 2011 to “at least $16 million” in 2012. For its part, Dow says its payments to Teneo grew because of consolidating and streamlining contracts in Teneo’s hands, thus saving Dow money.

Teneo co-founders Doug Band and Declan Kelly sit on the board of directors of the Hellenic Initiative.

Additionally, Bill Clinton spoke at The Hellenic Initiative in 2013.

Dow’s “Charitable Giving” page on its website inexplicably lists the company’s work with Teneo Holdings beneath descriptions of its work with the Hellenic Initiative and the Clinton Global Initiative, even though Teneo is a private advisory firm and not a charity.

Dow’s Charitable Giving page makes no effort to explain why having Teneo as a contractor is an example of charitable giving:

 “Teneo Holdings (Teneo)
  • Dow began working with Teneo Holdings in 2011.
  • Teneo provides advice, consultation and implementation on several key business operations including corporate governance, financial analytics, geopolitical issues, reputation enhancement, investor engagement, strategic communications, and legislative, regulatory, political and policy matters.
  • Teneo’s work scope is consistent with Dow’s strategic objectives and managed through Dow’s supplier management process administered by the Purchasing department.
  • The breadth and scope of Teneo’s current support is the result of an agency consolidation and contract renegotiation program across Dow’s global Public & Government Affairs organization in 2009 and 2010 designed to enhance levels of service, leverage knowledge and drive efficiencies globally.
  • The program resulted in the consolidation and streamlining of paid consultants and suppliers by more than 40 percent, creating cost reductions and enhancing synergies and the quality of service provided.
  • As a result, projects supported by several agencies were transitioned to Teneo, expanding Teneo’s contract and work statement.
  • Dow’s supplier contract with Teneo is reviewed annually based on business need and is negotiated and finalized by the Purchasing department.”

The Hillary Clinton campaign and Dow Chemical did not participate or provide comment for this report.


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