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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Welcome PCBs!

Air Date: Week of

Political commentator Jim Hightower satirizes the hottest business opportunity in the global economy — toxic waste incineration.


CURWOOD: Twenty years ago Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act, banning the manufacture and nearly all the uses of PCBs. According to commentator Jim Hightower, yesterday's pollution nightmare is today's business opportunity, at least in the eyes of the Clinton Administration.

HIGHTOWER: Who says America's business and political leaders won't cooperate to meet the challenges of the new global economy? Who says our corporate bosses have become so fat they've lost their competitive edge? Who says our nation's industrial ingenuity is flagging behind the Japanese? If you think that, buster, you clearly have not heard about the exciting new breakthrough just announced in a joint statement by Washington and Wall Street. At long last the land of the brave and the home of the free is going to be the world's leader in -- burning toxic waste.

Eat your heart out, Japan! The disposal industry has been begging for this opportunity for a long time and the Clinton Administration has just relented, reversing a 16-year ban on bring highly toxic PCB compounds to our golden shores for incineration. That's right, America. Stand proud today because tons of chemical wastes from Canada, Mexico, and God knows where can now cross our borders and come to any of five toxic disposal sites in Texas, Utah, and Kansas. And be burned. Spewing such notorious cancer-causing substances as dioxin into our spacious skies and across our amber waves of grain.

Now we can rewrite the eloquence of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty: Give us your tired, your poor, your PCBs. We banned PCBs for industrial use in our country several years ago because even in small amounts they were found to cause cancer, nerve damage and reproductive disorders. So why are we now opening our doors to these foreign toxics? Because the US disposal industry, which makes big campaign contributions to Democrats and Republicans alike, says that since America has banned the manufacture of PCBs, they don't have enough of the Made in the USA stuff to keep their incinerators puffing. Bottom line: these toxic waste traffickers want to import foreign-made PCBs just to keep their incinerators burning and their profits rising. Confronted with such self-serving reasoning, our so-called environmental protectors in Washington said: Duh, sure, okay. And they're waving in thousands of tons of this stuff.

This is not a decision based on need, as the EPA claims, but on unadulterated corporate greed. Like they say, God bless America. And please hurry.

CURWOOD: Former Texas Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower is a political commentator based in Austin, Texas.



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