The Koch Brothers' Tangled and Far-Reaching Web
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“After all, ethanol production is heavily subsidized, mandated and protected,” Koch Industries acknowledged, “while Koch companies openly oppose such government programs.”
Realism had won out. The company has the “capabilities necessary to be successful in the ethanol industry,” the newsletter explained. The new ethanol plants “fit well geographically with several other FHR assets, including fuel … terminals, a widespread distribution network that includes Iowa, and the Pine Bend [Minnesota] refinery.”
“We are not going to place our company and our employees at a competitive disadvantage by not participating in programs that are available to our competitors,” Razook assured Koch employees.
The company has a history of pragmatism in commercial affairs. Koch was a pioneer importer of Russian oil to the United States, including a 2002 shipment of Russian crude that Koch sold to the U.S. government to help fill the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And though it opposes a cap-and-trade solution to global warming for the United States, Koch makes money trading emissions credits under a similar program in Europe.
Nor is ethanol the only form of corporate welfare Koch Industries supports. As it ventures into biofuel production, and uses alternative fuels to power its plants, the company has its lobbyists working “to expand the [tax] credit for renewable electricity production” made from biomass.
Georgia-Pacific, the company reported in 2008, was responsible for more than 10 percent of all the renewable biomass electricity generated in the U.S.
Koch’s efforts to limit regulation of toxic substances illustrate the breadth of its lobbying operation.
In 2004 Koch Industries purchased Invista, a subsidiary of DuPont, known for manufacturing Lycra, Stainmaster carpets and other textiles and fabrics. In 2005, as part of the same corporate diversification and expansion strategy, Koch Industries bought the giant wood and paper products firm, Georgia-Pacific, adding Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper, Dixie cups and dozens of factories and plants to its holdings.
Koch has since worked, on Capitol Hill and in various regulatory proceedings, to dilute or halt tighter federal regulation of several toxic byproducts that could affect its bottom line, including dioxin, asbestos and formaldehyde, all of which have been linked to cancer.
Dioxin is released from incinerators, hazardous waste treatment, pesticide manufacturing, paper plants and other sources. With 165 manufacturing facilities across the United States, Georgia-Pacific “has a significant interest in and will be significantly impacted,” by the EPA’s decisions on dioxin, Koch officials told the agency in April 2010.
Hundreds of workers would have to be hired, and trucks and earth-moving equipment leased or purchased. And “of the limited number of hazardous waste landfills operating in the United States, very few are willing to accept dioxin-containing soil,” the company noted.
“Treatment and disposal of dioxin-containing soil is already a challenging, expensive and capacity-limited problem that would only get worse if additional volumes were generated.”
It’s been three decades since the environmental catastrophes at Love Canal, N.Y., and Times Beach, Mo., introduced the American public to the dangers of dioxin. But in the EPA hearing at the Washington Hilton last July, toxicologist John M. DeSesso, a consultant speaking on behalf of Georgia-Pacific, told the agency that the scientific studies on common levels of exposure are still inconclusive. He urged further study.
The Environmental Working Group and a number of public health organizations, meanwhile, chastised the EPA for dragging its feet, and reminded the agency panel that another arm of the federal government, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, and the World Health Organization have already classified dioxin as a known human carcinogen.