Chemical Industry Fears Health-Environment Alliance
Update Spring 2004

What’s a high level intelligence strategist doing at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) annual meeting?  Giving a speech on an important strategic threat to the chemical industry -- the growing alliance between patient advocacy groups and environmentalists on issues relating to chemical exposure. 

The speaker was Bart Mongoven of Stratfor Inc. Stratfor is a new breed of private intelligence agency, described by Barron’s as “A private, quasi-CIA”, and by The San Francisco Chronicle as “[having] no problem setting aside distracting moral issues and going to the heart of the matter.”

The heart of the matter in this case is chemical industry interests in the face of growing research documenting health effects of toxic chemicals. Mongoven specializes in monitoring non-governmental lobbying efforts. His report to the petrochemical industry was that environmentalists are “gaining momentum” as they develop coordinated campaigns with patient advocacy groups. According to Montgoven, the alliance between health and environmental concerns “works here.”
Mongoven cited the effectiveness of alliances in the US such as the Collaboration for Health and the Environment, and noted that groups such as the Learning Disabilities Association and the American Association of Mental Retardation are becoming involved in environmental lobbying. He stated that all health groups are being "encouraged to look" at these issues. 

Some chemical industry officials say Mongoven's speech raises concerns about the possible success of their future environmental lobbying campaigns. "Quite honestly, your presentation scared the heck out of me," Charles Drevna, NPRA's director of technical advocacy, said after the speech.

It’s not just talk with the petrochemical industry.  In November, 2003, a leaked memo from a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council recommended hiring the public relations firm of Nichols-Dezenhall, to carry out a campaign against the precautionary principal in California. The memo says that the precautionary principle (PP) is a "top priority" for the American Chemistry Council because the PP is too common-sense.   Parts of the strategy called for the creation of a "non-business led coalition" to provide testimony against the precautionary principle, "selective intelligence gathering" on industry opponents, and organizing protests timed with key votes in the Legislature.

Bill Walker, West Coast vice-president of the Environmental Working Group, which received the leaked memo said, "They're known for creating deceptive, phony front groups,  ... they go through people's trash, they make a policy of hiring former FBI and CIA operatives. Their motto basically is that they're not a PR firm - you hire them when you want to win a war."

The July 2003 memo envisioned spending $15,000 a month on the campaign during periods of peak activity, but ultimately the campaign was not funded. San Francisco City and County did adopt an ordinance stating that all public policies which effect the environment must be guided by the precautionary principle. Decision makers are directed to evaluate alternatives when making decisions and "select the alternative with the least potential impact on human health and the environment.”