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Rick Reibstein MAS2019


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Presentation for the Sustainable Communities and Campuses Conference on March 29, 2019 in Cambridge, MA

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Rick Reibstein MAS2019

  1. 1. FIRST KEN GEISER WINS THE NATIONAL POLLUTION PREVENTION ROUNDTABLE AWARD for Most Valuable Player P2 Ambassador Really a lifetime Ken’s achievement contributions award cannot be measured
  2. 2. The Context, Value and Point of Environmentally Preferable Practice and Purchasing
  3. 3. 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 be worried? Cuyahoga River on fire 1952
  4. 4. 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
  5. 5. 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!
  6. 6. 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 make people worried like me • I experienced burnout and depression • But if I tried to do something else, I had nightmares – I could not turn away. Sisyphus pushing his rock (Titian)
  7. 7. 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 Electroplaters’ Project.
  8. 8. 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. THIS MEANT THEY COULD Consider Changing Practice. THERE WERE GASPS in the ROOM.
  9. 9. Once possibilities of change are opened up • 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 Reduction Act. Fast Forward: HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of Pounds of Toxics Reduced – probably Billions – AND companies saved money.
  10. 10. Relational Environmental Governance • The Provision of Assistance was a new tool of governance that changed attitudes from HOSTILITY to PARTNERSHIP. • 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 industry funded annual efforts to repeal the act and prevent similar laws throughout the country. TURA reduced sales of toxics big time!
  11. 11. NOW LET’S REMEMBER THAT WE ALL POLLUTE • A common observation, often used to blunt opposition to large-scale irresponsibility. BUT TRUE. • MA and other states also launched HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTE programs.
  12. 12. 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 but alarming. • 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?
  13. 13. 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.
  14. 14. 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.
  15. 15. 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 difference. • Some governments and some companies have instituted it, but the general public is only slowly learning. • It is still hard to find out what’s in things, and to understand how to make good choices. • Greenwashing is still a problem.
  16. 16. Meanwhile • 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 BUY and • WE CAN DEMAND OUR GOVERNMENT REINVEST In PREVENTIVE PROGRAMS – they work!
  17. 17. Mankind's Eternal Dilemma – The Choice Between Virtue and Vice Franz Franken the Younger 1633 – nothing’s changed!
  18. 18. These observations come from: Rick Reibstein 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. Lecturer, Environmental Law and Policy, Boston University, 2000-today. Blogger: THE ENVIRONMENTAL CITIZEN Trainer, lead law, acc. by NH and Maine RE Commissions