The Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), an umbrella of several hundred foundation and corporate givers to the environmental movement, held a top-secret closed-door meeting February 3-4, 1997. Through these meetings environmental grantmakers help set the agenda of the environmental movement.
The left-wing magazine Mother Jones describes the importance of these meetings this way: "By deciding which organizations get money, the grant-makers help set the agenda of the environmental movement and influence the programs and strategies that activists carry out."
Though these meetings are normally held under cloak of secrecy, some EGA participants believe the public should be told what is going on in these otherwise top-secret EGA meetings. Accordingly, notes taken at the meeting have been shared with The National Center for Public Policy Research and other groups so that the public can be informed of the thinking of the leadership of the billion dollar plus liberal environmental movement.
The meeting notes are interesting not only for the environmental movement's strategic analyses and complaints made by EPA Administrator Carol Browner, but also for the in some ways surprising comments made by participants about House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich.
The notes follow.
Notes from Environmental Grantmakers Association
Embassy Row Hotel
February 3-4, 1997
-We need to restore the good name of environmental protection.
-We have weathered the worse assaults but we cannot relax.
-Defensive strategy - we need to take back what we have lost.
- We must be vigilant and not lose any more ground.
(Trying to be positive ...)
-We did kind of win in 1996, by not going backwards. Factors that helped
us were: the Boehlert factor, the media factor, the Morris/Clinton factor,
Tom DeLay factor, and the grassroots environmental community.
-Actually the environment did emerge as the top issue in the last
election, but not nationally, only where the League of Conservation Voters did their
grassroots campaigning. There must be a continuous campaign, a
conversation about the environment to yield electoral votes.
**Watch Out for:
- The Senate Environment and Public Works (?) Committee has 3 members who
are "not our friends." Inhof is not a friend. Kit Bond is not a friend.
- Carl Levin, D-Detroit, is having talks about regulatory reform. "This is
dangerous. It gives power to industry lobbyists."
- Watch out that the media becomes tired of us and stops believing our
**Signs of Hope:
- Boehlert, with 60 votes, will be our "backstop" against bad
- John Kasich is leading Republicans in our direction.
- Trent Lott is actually moderate (towards the environment) and wants
legislation, but he has the "right" to deal with eg. Brownback, Smith,
Sessions, Helms, McCain, Santorum, etc.
- "The Speaker is an ally, not an enemy."
- National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, has at least 5 members in
42 states and is being developed to counter the right-wing ALEC network.
Ready to push Right to Know legislation in 34 states.
- With the resurgence of the labor movement, the time is right for their
collaboration with the environmental movement.
- State-based Green Scissors reports such as Michigan's will be helpful in
- Last year, we had the unfunded mandates bill, regulatory flexibility,
small business regulatory enforcement fairness act, paperwork reduction
act. NRDC wants to "reform those reforms." Perhaps combine some of them
- "Reg reform attacks all environmental legislation by setting up road
blocks to getting regs in place. Reg reform will question every step!" -
- As industry talks about the least costly, we will respond with what is
"least costly to children's health?"
- Need to shift the burden of industry to demonstrate safety, as Prop 65
- Push for enforcement of existing environmental laws (polling data says
the public would support this.)
- CEI is making proposals of mandate report cards, mandate reduction
committees, and congressional approval of all regs before they go into
effect. This is the "new way of thinking."!
- Boehlert says we will have incremental reform, no entire overhaul of
regulatory reform. We need to pick & choose and adjust on the basis of
This is the year Superfund must be authorized (due to tax structure?).
Nader says to keep the sanctions. Waxman says Superfund will
be a battle.
It's a threatening issue that we don't know how to talk
about. We need to learn how to talk about "local control" or we are going to lose.
Devolution will require watchdog groups at the local level as power
devolves to the States (hence PIRG's need support). Some states are being less
responsive to environmental groups as they gain more authority.
Costs of Regulations:
The conservatives will portray us as insensitive to
the cost of regulations. We need to look into better regs at lower cost
for a good defense.
Right to Know:
- NJ and Mass programs have been a great success. (Whitman and Weld have
both given their programs favorable press). Ready to go for the national
push with EPA. Working on the 3rd step of full material accounting and
toxics use reporting. Need to protect existing RTK programs, add more
industries and chemicals, add TUR, and labeling of children's products.
- Hard to run a RTK campaign with just an ANPR. Need a piece of
legislation to keep the issue front and forward. Will have bipartisan sponsors in the
House and only a Democrat in the Senate. Have a 50/50 chance of getting a
bill passed intact.
- Sorting out what to do administratively (by executive order) and
legislatively. We want to maximize the executive order approach and use
that as a template for legislative action.
-RTK plays well with the public and there is an embarassment factor for
industry when they have to tell their community what they discharge.
- In 102nd congress, this ideas was pushed as pollution prevention. This
time it will be pushed as RTK.
- RTK issue polls well among non-enviro geographics, and among parents and
workers. Polled well in Lousiana and Georgia. (Billy Tauzin said he'd
never vote against RTK again).
- Message: "protect our children, empower communities."
Clean Water and Toxics:
- Clean water is a hot issue. Toxics are 8 point behind clean water, but
if you link the two eg toxics in your drinking water, it's very powerful.
We need to stand united behind an issue. United we stand. Divided we fall.
Pollution taxes are an ideal way to deal with pollution. It raises money
and can be sold as a market mechanism - Waxman.
**Link Environment to Health & Safety:
- Kids and Asthma -A very powerful asthma commercial was shown with a
parent taking a strickened child into the emergency room. The voiceover said "The
Cost of dirty air is children who literally cannot breathe." Also Browner
mentioned that reports of children with asthma have risen.
- CDC believes children's health needs to be on "on the table."
- Need to make this a worker health issue. Workers should have a legal
right to refuse hazardous work. Need to prevent the spread of TB in workplace.
The UAW is shoulder to shoulder with us on this issue.
- Breast cancer is on the increase because of environmental pollution
- Homes are sliding down hillsides due to improper logging.
- When regulations are equated to safety and protection, then the public
will support them.
Devolution - need to learn how to talk "local control" in an effective
way or we are going to lose the devolution battle.
Regulatory reform- Our response should be "Here we go again." Don't use
their language of "reform". Instead call it regulatory "repeal" or
regulatory "deform" (or tort deform). Say they are rolling back 25 years
of environmental safeguards.
Pollution -Nader suggests that we speak of pollution in the terms of
violence. Pollution should be a law and order issue, we need pollution
cops, violators deserved to be punished, innocent people are being exposed to
Heritage Foundation gave advice to their members to stay away from words
like "regulatory relief," instead refer to "smarter regs" and blame the
current system "for not saving enough lives."
Need to learn how to talk about bioaccumulation, without using that word.
Get on your message and stay on it! "Corporate polluters are trying to
turn back the clock and undo 25 years of environmental protection."
Most people believe that politicians are "on the take" so attacking their
source of money is not as helpful as attacking the person's environmental
Advice from Boehlert to the EGA: Watchdogs like Jonathan Adler are
watching the role of foundations, so "Be very careful. Be sure to follow both the
letters and spirit of the law."
New coalitions are being started to support the Tongass National Forest
Alaska Conservation Allliance - 501c3
Alaska Conservation Action - 501c4
Alaska Conservation Voters - PAC
LCV's strategy to recruit pro-environment Republicans to create green
legislative bodies. "It's a real shell game" - Deb Callahan.
**Junk Science and Horror Stories:
Carol Browner shared a trend that she has observed in her recent visits
to editorial boards about the new clean air standards. The boards are telling
her that people believe this is junk science. Some people think all
environmental regulations are based upon junk science and "it doesn't help
that John Stossel goes on The Today Show (you mean, Good Morning America)
and tells everybody we do junk science.
Browner said that the number of people who are gardening has "something
like tripled in the last year."
Carol Browner relayed her frustration that people are saying "The big bad
EPA will ban BBQ grills, lawnmowers, and . . . what is it this week? . . .
The Council on Environmental Quality has started investigating and found
that some of the conservative horror stories are not true. The couldn't
find the little old lady who couldn't plant her rose garden because of wetland
restrictions. "We need to counter the misinformation, the horror stories."
New friends and alliances
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