Of course, there are powerful forces arrayed against any move to zero out dioxin emissions, led by multi-billion dollar chemical giants such as Dow, Monsanto, and DuPont. These companies maintain huge political action committees. Combined, they dole out more than $2 million a year to federal candidates of both parties.
The big trash disposal companies, such as Waste Management and Browning Ferris Industries, also have an enormous stake in keeping the incinerators running, despite the dire dangers to public health. These companies hold lucrative contracts from cities to burn municipal trash, and both have spent tens of millions greenwashing their mephitic business, including dumping loads of cash into the coffers of large environmental groups. Waste Management CEO Dean Buntrock has served for years on the board of the National Wildlife Federation, which supports incineration as an ecologically sound method of waste disposal.
As a result, both political parties are beholden to the dioxin lobby. Bob Dole has been the prime legislator for the chemical-agriculture industry and has opposed any attempts to rein in the production of dioxin allied chemicals. Jack Kemp, whose congressional district adjoined the dioxin-saturated Love Canal, downplayed the toxicity of the chemical and dismissed local activists such as Lois Gibbs as hysterical housewives. Kemp voted repeatedly to ditch the Superfund law and has railed boisterously against Community Right-to-Know statutes.
Similarly, Bill Clinton has maintained a long-standing relationship to the hazardous waste incineration business. One week prior to his election as president, Clinton gave the go-ahead for the Vertac incinerator, which has poisoned the town of Jacksonville, Arkansas with lethal levels of dioxins and other toxins. A month into his administration, Clinton overruled EPA scientists and betrayed his own campaign promises by giving the green light to WTI's deadly PCB incinerator in Liverpool, Ohio. For nearly a decade, Hillary Rodham Clinton collected $30,000 a year as a director of the Lafarge Corporation, one of the nation's biggest cement manufacturers, which heats its massive, dioxin-seething kilns with millions of gallons of toxic sludge. The cement industry continues to enjoy an exemption from key environmental laws governing the incineration of hazardous waste, an exemption that owes much to the influence of Hillary Clinton in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Lois Gibbs, now director of the Citizens' Clearinghouse on Hazardous Waste, sees the problem as a failure of the political process to deal with the growing power of multinational corporations. "We can't shut down the sources of dioxin without finding the courage to change the way government works," Gibbs says. "We have to explore how people became powerless as the corporations became powerful. We have to figure out a way to speak honestly and act collectively to rebuild our democracy."