KEN GEISER WINS THE NATIONAL POLLUTION
PREVENTION ROUNDTABLE AWARD for
Most Valuable Player
Really a lifetime Ken’s
award cannot be
The Context, Value and Point of
Environmentally Preferable Practice
One person’s perspective
• I decided to be an environmentalist in 1970
– Reacting to VietNam war, nuclear threat, nuclear
power’s waste, fallout pesticide dispersion, air and
water pollution, wildlife and natural destruction.
– The question at that
time was, should we
Cuyahoga River on fire 1952
Artificial Sources of Radiation – Fallout
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
4.2 Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation
RADIATION IMPACTS JUST ONE TERRIFYING EXAMPLE
Review of “The Perils of the Peaceful
Atom” in Am. Jrnl. Public Health, 1971
• In their foreword, the authors express a hope "that this
book will not be viewed as an irresponsible attack on
the atomic energy establishment or the nuclear
industry." In the judgment of this reviewer, it is just
that. They have repeatedly used loaded scare words,
such as "vicious" radiation, "reckless" siting, "seething
radioactive poison," "violently lethal brew" (fuel
waste), with an "ugly disposition." The book abounds
with conjectures of what "may," "might," or "could"
happen, inevitably frightening or worse, with little
assessment of contrary evidence or experience.
Just one example of how the perspective was rejected - how dare they frighten us!
I quickly found
• People don’t want to hear it
• I had trouble getting work
• The only work I could get was fighting or trying to
worried like me
• I experienced burnout
• But if I tried to do
something else, I had
– I could not turn away.
Sisyphus pushing his rock (Titian)
Then I found Pollution Prevention
• The State of Massachusetts tried to site hazardous
waste facilities, but the public wasn’t having it (Clean
Harbors spent millions trying to put one in Braintree).
• DEM responded by researching the feasibility of
“SOURCE REDUCTION”. (Dukakis era of good
government – his group was called “goo goos”).
• My first task in 1988 with the Office of “SAFE WASTE
MANAGEMENT” was to review the results of the
COMPANIES SAID THAT THEY HAD TO DO
THINGS THE WAY THEY DID THEM
• Also: We had some nerve suggesting they could make changes to their
process. What did we know? Another example of arrogant government
and naïve environmentalism. I met with profound anger and hostility.
• BUT! PROCESS FLOW DIAGRAMMING showed companies performing the
same plating process did it completely differently.
GASPS in the
Once possibilities of change are
• We found that we could help companies find
better alternatives for:
– 1. What They Used and
– 2. How They Used Materials
The Demonstration of the Feasibility of Source
Reduction helped the Passage of the Toxics Use
Fast Forward: HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of Pounds of
Toxics Reduced – probably Billions – AND
companies saved money.
Relational Environmental Governance
• The Provision of Assistance was a new tool of
governance that changed attitudes from HOSTILITY to
• THIS is the larger part of the story, and it has gotten
very little attention. Much more attention has been
generated by the opposition. The
annual efforts to
repeal the act and
prevent similar laws
country. TURA reduced
sales of toxics big time!
NOW LET’S REMEMBER THAT WE ALL
• A common observation, often used to blunt
opposition to large-scale irresponsibility. BUT
• MA and
One Fine Day – 1993 or 4
• We received a visit from a trade association. My memory says it was the
Household and Commercial Products Association.
• They showed us legislation they were promoting to require that all
information by state environmental agencies had to be scientifically valid.
• They politely threatened
lawsuits. They were charming
• They shared “scientific”
reports saying safer cleaners were
NOT ACTUALLY environmentally
superior. These were the most bogus
scientific papers I have ever seen.
• They told us that states were ceasing to recommend to citizens that they
stop using their products and we would be wise to do the same.
• After they left, we debated what to do. I suggested we develop defensible
reasons for making recommendations. But how?
Because of our successful
demonstrations of P2
• The Office of Technical Assistance for Toxics Use
Reduction was getting grant after grant from EPA.
• I walked over to the state’s purchasing office and
asked if they would like some money to establish
an EPP program.
• One Jonathan Goldfield immediately said yes, and
hired Eric Friedman.
• Eric became part of our “Clean States” team,
which was providing assistance on environmental
performance to state agencies.
To make a long story short
• Eric spent a year looking at recycled content and
plastic wood and then began to expand his scope.
THE EPP program provided a “DEFENSIBLE”
reason for preferring products.
• In the late 1990’s OTA asked Eric if he would look
at a complicated EPP issue – “MULTIATTRIBUTE”
preferability. We worked together with a team
(TURI, DPH, DEP) and selected preferable
alternative cleaners, looking at many factors.
Cities can buy off the state contract
and citizens can learn from it
• It is an analogue to industrial P2 – prevent
pollution by reducing use of toxics at the source!
• If more states, cities, corporations, and
individuals did it, it would make a huge
• Some governments and some companies have
instituted it, but the general public is only slowly
• It is still hard to find out what’s in things, and to
understand how to make good choices.
• Greenwashing is still a problem.
• Investment in P2 by government
has radically diminished.
• Right to know has not substantially progressed.
• Precautionary policies have been stifled.
• BUT THE MORE WE ALL RECOGNIZE the BETTER
WAY the more chance we have of choosing it.
• WE CAN BECOME INFORMED ABOUT WHAT WE
• WE CAN DEMAND OUR GOVERNMENT REINVEST
In PREVENTIVE PROGRAMS – they work!
Mankind's Eternal Dilemma –
The Choice Between Virtue and Vice
Franz Franken the Younger 1633 – nothing’s changed!
These observations come from:
Impoverished and mostly frustrated
environmentalist, 1970 – 1988.
Assistant Director, Office of Technical Assistance for
Toxics Use Reduction, 1989-2000, developing assistance
and prevention initiatives.
US Environmental Protection Agency enforcement attorney
2000-2003, mostly on lead poisoning. MA DEP, 2004.
Director, Outreach and Policy, OTA,
2005 – 2015.
Law and Policy, Boston University, 2000-today.
Blogger: THE ENVIRONMENTAL CITIZEN
Trainer, lead law, acc. by NH and Maine RE Commissions