Lobbyists Fuel Perchlorate Debate

"For decades prior to passage of clean-water laws in the 1970s, defense firms routinely dumped perchlorate, used in rocket fuel to generate an intense burn, into the ground and waterways. The substance has tainted water supplies in at least 26 states," and is linked to such health threats as "neurological impairments for infants." Military companies and U.S. Defense Department officials have succeeded in delaying the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from setting limits on perchlorate in drinking water, including by funding their own studies. In 2007 and 2008, Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Hilda Solis pushed bills to require the EPA to set perchlorate standards. After Boxer's bill was approved in committee, "an unidentified member of the Senate placed a hold on it, blocking it from coming to a vote. ... With the Senate bill stalled, the House ... didn't bother to move ahead with Solis' legislation." Former Senator Richard Bryan and his former legislative director, Brent Heberlee, were lobbying on the issue, for perchlorate manufacturers and users Aerojet, Alliant Techsystems, American Pacific Corporation and Tronox. The two pocketed "at least $200,000 in lobbying fees for their work." As a Senator, Bryan supported drinking-water improvements in his home state of Nevada. As Nevada's governor, Bryan dealt with a factory explosion due to perchlorate. New EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has signaled her intention to address the issue, likely meaning "more wrangling -- and more lucrative work" for Bryan and Heberlee.