Backyard Talk Homepage

Juliana v. United States (2015-2021)

Photo credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

By Hunter Marion.

In 2015, a group of 21 young people ranging from 8-19 in age filed a lawsuit against the federal government for violating their rights to a safe climate as argued under the “public trust doctrine.” This collection of plaintiffs was represented by the environmental legal firm, Our Children’s Trust, and contained several activists from the youth-focused environmental group, Earth Guardians. Juliana v. the United States became a high-profile, youth-led, legal battle to correct the political mess that contributed to roughly 50-years’ worth of climate change (several of the young plaintiffs even cited it as directly damaging their ways of life).

Although promising, the case was kicked around the court system, eventually getting stuck in legal limbo with the U.S. Supreme Court currently debating on whether to accept it for oral argument. If accepted, this case (and others) could potentially lay the groundwork for novel legal actions to prosecute against entities that contributed to climate change. It could also lead to more thorough punishment of gas and oil companies, set precedent for other environmental lawsuits, and possibly guarantee a constant right to a clean and stable environment.

Some legal scholars have criticized that the points brought up in Juliana were too weak, had too many sources of damage, or could not be given proper resolution within the judicial context. However, many judges involved in reviewing the case pointed out considerable evidence to the contrary. Critics also protest that even if the U.S. Supreme Court were to accept the case, it would not have the power to enact these changes because it is not the rule-making body of government. But this criticism also falls flat when one recognizes that the U.S. Supreme Court has a record of judicial activism or “legislating from the bench” (creating or interpreting their own new laws or constitutional rights without the need for the legislature to create them first), see Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Roe v. Wade (1973), or Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). To put it bluntly, the courts can find the necessary points, damages, and resolutions if they want to.

The key takeaway from Juliana vs. United States is that for those seeking environmental justice, the courts are not a guaranteed pathway to restitution. Even if you or your group brings solid, compelling evidence or has a resounding reputation, that may not be enough to overcome the federal government’s reluctance to address its responsibility (or even culpability) in environmental degradation, climate driven or otherwise. While this approach creates another pressure point on those responsible for climate change, we at CHEJ would put more faith in a grassroots-based, multi-government level-focused strategy that gives us a seat at the table rather than relying upon a team of lawyers and government officials to do it for us.

If you would like to learn more about the case, you can watch the documentary Youth v. Gov now available on Netflix.

Backyard Talk Homepage

Do We Need A Worldwide Polluters Pay Policy ?

Photo credit: Pixabay, Creative Commons

By Sharon Franklin.

Emily Beament published an article on January 16, 2023, on The Ecologist, a news and analysis website that focuses on environmental, social and economic justice, about a study by Stuart Jenkins. The University of Oxford researcher’s study was on why we need a polluter pays policy. Jenkins said the world dramatically needs to scale-up geological carbon storage and that making fossil fuel firms pay to clean up carbon could help curb climate change.

The study posits that requiring fossil fuel companies to pay for cleaning up their carbon emissions could help curb dangerous global warming at a relatively affordable cost. Its argument is centered around what is already happening in other industries, such as plastic packaging and electrical goods, and in the water sector. This approach holds producers responsible for the waste generated by the products they sell.

Can the World Afford this Approach to Make Polluters Pay?  

Jenkins’ study describes it as a “carbon takeback obligation” and it would help overcome the energy trilemma – the choice between energy security, affordability, and environmental sustainability. He also stated, “Unfortunately when governments are forced to choose, they often forgo that latter obligation” (e.g., environmental sustainability). According to his study, “A carbon takeback obligation provides a simple and predictable regulation ensuring the fossil fuel industry cleans up after its activities and products without government subsidies.” To opponents to this approach who might ask, “But at what cost?” Jenkin’s response is, “It does add to the cost of fossil fuel production, and so it’s not an incentive to continue production by any means.” 

And What About Energy Demands? 

Dr. Hugh Helferty, a former employee at ExxonMobil North America, added to this argument: “It makes sense that the producer and consumer should pay rather than the taxpayer should pay, and that puts the drive to reduce costs in the right place.” He later issued a warning that “a lot of the reaction to current very high fossil fuel prices has been to increase supply not to reduce demand.”

So, What’s Next?  

Professor Myles Allen, from the University of Oxford, also stated that “ending fossil fuel use was going to be hard. We need to start a conversation about how we redirect this colossal amount of money that is currently simply being injected into what we call fossil fuel rents to addressing the climate problem.” Professor Allen went on to state that implementing the obligation could reduce and ultimately prevent further global warming from fossil fuels at an affordable cost.  

This is relative to conventional solutions, because the world spent ~$13 trillion in energy costs last year, mostly on fossil fuels and with a substantial fraction going into “rents” or profits, taxes and royalties.  By 2050, the global economy is expected to double, and the net costs would be less than half of last year’s energy costs as a proportion of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Backyard Talk Homepage

8 Strategies to Grow Your Social Engagement

Social engagement
Credit: Rudzhan

By Gregory Kolen II.

When measuring the effectiveness of your social media messaging, engagement through actions such as liking, sharing, and responding indicate a potential for growth and continued interaction. This growth doesn’t just stop at the number as a vanity metric, but can be converted into effective action takers and loyal contributors. There are a number of strategies that a nonprofit organization can use to increase social media engagement. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Create valuable and relevant content: Make sure the content you are sharing on social media is interesting, informative, and relevant to your audience. Share stories and updates about your organization’s mission and the people you serve, as well as tips and resources that your audience might find useful.
  2. Use visuals: Social media is a visual medium, and posts that include images or videos tend to perform better than text-only posts. Consider using photos and videos to showcase the work of your organization and the impact you’re making in the community.
  3. Engage with your audience: Respond to comments and messages, and encourage your followers to share their own stories and experiences. When people feel like they are part of a community, they are more likely to engage with your organization’s social media content.
  4. Be consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to social media engagement. By posting regularly, your followers will come to expect new content from you, and they’ll be more likely to engage with your posts.
  5. Use social media advertising: Use social media ads to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your organization’s mission. Target your ads to people in your area, or people who have shown an interest in similar organizations or causes.
  6. Collaborate with other non-profit organizations or influencers for cross promotion, this way you can expose your organization to new audiences and vice versa.
  7. Create a sense of urgency and scarcity on some of your posts, by promoting upcoming events, deadlines, or limited-time opportunities.
  8. Consider hosting or sponsoring events that can be promoted on social media, that way you can create buzz and attract new followers.

Keep in mind that social media engagement is not always about the number of followers or likes, but also about the quality of the interactions and the impact that you are able to generate from those interactions. Time to create value for your audience!

Backyard Talk Homepage

2022 – The Year in Review

Photo credit: Eman Mohammed | Survival Media Agency

By Stephen Lester.

As CHEJ begins its 42nd year in operation, it’s always good to reflect on the previous year. We found that 2022 concluded with incredible success. Our staff, volunteers and, most importantly, our leaders on the frontlines successfully adapted to new ways of organizing and fighting back during a difficult pandemic period. And they continued to win local efforts to stop polluters and protect their families.  

This is all possible because of our donors and supporters. With your support, we were able to provide leadership skills, facilitate strategic action plans, produce scientific analyses and provide the much-needed resources to frontline grassroots communities through our small grants program and community organizing efforts throughout the country. 

With the new administration in Washington, we saw significant new legislation passed by the Biden Administration including the Build Back Better and the Inflation Reduction Acts that offer promise for a better tomorrow. Most notably, the reinstatement of several Superfund polluter pays fees that promise to raise $3.5B for Superfund cleanups as part of the Build Back Better infrastructure legislation. Many Superfund communities across the county celebrated this long-awaited victory, which never would have been possible without the persistent call for action from hundreds of grassroots communities across the country.

CHEJ’s Unequal Response, Unequal Protection campaign continued in 2022 to create a clear, community-driven framework for conducting health investigations that prioritizes public health and gives community leaders the decision-making power to decide how government should respond. After meetings with community leaders and scientists who helped brainstorm an alternative response, we finalized an 8-step process that follows a defined timeline – ensuring that communities get answers in a timely manner.

This past year we also continued our work with grassroots groups in communities like Bristol, TN/VA, Wausau, WI, Houston, TX, Greeley, CO, Seattle, WA, Rostraver, PA, Rensselear, NY, and the Ohio River Valley, OH, all of whom had many accomplishments and expressed the strength and passion to fight against polluters and for environmental justice. Many of their stories are truly inspiring and help to keep us going.

We also continued providing our technical assistance to grassroots organizations in support of local organizing; published our biweekly feature Toxic Tuesday, which provides information on the toxicity of individual chemicals as well as features on the challenges of interpreting toxic effects; conducted 14 diverse and informative Zoom training calls that focused on topics designed to educate and develop skills amongst grassroots leaders. Attendance on these calls increased by over 86% from the previous year. Additionally, CHEJ was delighted to support 48 grassroots organizations with the assistance of our donors and supporters, as part of our Small Grants Program, as we continue to build the base of the Environmental Health and Justice Movement. We look forward to more success in this coming year.

Backyard Talk Homepage

Don’t Let the Fossil Fuel Industry Take You Down with Them

Photo Credit: Appalachian Voices

By Jose Aguayo.

The fossil fuel industry is dying. As it does it tries to take as many people with it as it can. On one hand, this death is a good thing. Emissions from fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change and the reason why in the past few decades we have seen such severe droughts, intense fires, devastating floods, and powerful hurricanes. So, the fact the industry is on life support is great news. However, as it takes its final breaths, it is trying to strangle the most vulnerable communities in our country.

Just last week, Senator Manchin attempted to include a provision onto the National Defense Authorization Act that would fast track fossil fuel projects and authorize the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This pipeline would move natural gas, produced from fracking activities in the Marcellus and Utica shales, through Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Although Manchin’s attempt failed, there is the threat of it resurfacing in the near future. This is the fossil fuel industry attempting to delude the poor and rural communities of these three states with a handful of money in one hand while hiding a knife behind their back with the other.

We don’t need to look back far to see the potential dangers of oil and gas pipelines. Just last week, on December 8th, the TC Energy pipeline, a component of the Keystone Pipeline system, burst and spilled an unknown amount of oil near Washington, Kansas. This leak has impacted surface water from the local Mill Creek and will likely lead to contamination of nearby private wells and subsurface water. TC Energy recovered 2,598 barrels from the spill, but that is likely a small fraction of the total spill. The people of Washington got stabbed in the back by the “profitable” fossil fuel industry.

Projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline and fracking operations all throughout the northeast need to be stopped for the sake of all the communities whose water and air are threatened. The fossil fuel industry needs to accept its fate and wither away without poisoning or killing more vulnerable communities along the way.

Backyard Talk Homepage

What Does Pearl Harbor and Environmental Injustice in San Francisco Have in Common?

Photo credit: Christopher Ulrich/Flickr

By Sharon Franklin.

Pearl Harbor happened 71 years ago on December 7th, 1941, but remnants of this World War II attack are still being felt by residents living at Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco, California. This neighborhood has been called a “textbook case of environmental justice.” As reported by the Earth Island Journal, this community’s battle for environmental justice has been almost a century-long battle.

The EPA declared a shipyard near this community a Superfund site in 1989. This was due to contamination from asbestos, PCBs, and, most controversially, radioactive materials. The U.S. Navy and EPA have been trying to clean up the radiation from this site for decades, but to enable the sale of the property to a very lucrative real-estate development deal with the Lennar Corporation. Not for civilian safety. Activists believe that should the Navy and EPA get away with this subpar cleanup, then the equivalent of transporting the fallout from Hiroshima across the Pacific to the Bayview-Hunters Point community will go untouched.  

The Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood was again in the public eye in the Fall of 2022, when the EPA made it known that it does not intend to hold the Navy responsible for a full cleanup. Mr. Schwartz of the Earth Island Journal reported that failure to do so would disregard Proposition P, a measure passed overwhelmingly by San Francisco voters in 2000 (and adopted by the city’s board of supervisors in 2001). This measure also urged that the site be cleaned up to the agency’s most protective standards for safe residential use without restrictions.

According to Environmental Policy Analyst, Daniel Hirsch, of the San Francisco Examiner, the EPA “intends to allow the use of far weaker limits and let the Navy walk away from much of the pollution at the site, relying on unenforceable land-use restrictions and covering up rather than cleaning up the radioactivity and toxic chemicals.” The EPA’s vague assurances has only led to more questions for the community of Bayview-Hunters Point.  

Bradley Angel, Executive Director of Greenaction and a longtime community leader at Hunters Point, believes that the Navy’s use of Battelle and other federal contractors tied to the Navy and polluters is the opposite of independent oversight. He further says, “The plans by the Navy and EPA to leave large amounts of radioactive and toxic waste buried and capped at the shipyard are blatant environmental racism, especially as sea levels and groundwater are rising and will eventually flood and spread the contamination further into the community.” Also, Dr. Robert Gould, President of the San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility expressed outrage at “the abdication of EPA’s public duty” in their decision to let the Navy off the hook. 

On the other side of the debate is San Francisco Mayor, London Breed, who has gone on record in support of the Navy’s cleanup plans, describing them as “robust and appropriate.” In response to the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors President, Shamann Walton, asserted the EPA’s decision to allow a limited cleanup, saying that “the board will have a say on whether or not the city will accept land transfers from the Navy.”

So, What Can Environmental Justice Advocates Do?

As we approach the remembrance of Pearl Harbor 71 years later, environmental activists across the nation will continue to keep a watchful eye on what happens at Bayview-Hunters Point, noting that should the Navy and EPA get away with a substandard cleanup at a heavily contaminated site, we can only imagine what they could do to less affluent and less well-organized communities in other parts of the country.

Backyard Talk Homepage

10 Content Creation Tips for Non-Profits


By Gregory Kolen II.

Content is an essential component for non-profit organizations, providing them with the ability to share their story and mission with the world. It allows them to connect with potential supporters and build relationships, creating greater understanding of their cause. Here are ten tips for effective content creation:

  1. Share stories about the people you help: By letting people know what you do in story format, you’re not only spreading awareness of various issues, but you’re allow others to understand how you can help them.
  2. Share your story: Although the people that you help are one of the most important parts of your story. Your origin and continuing motivation can be a powerful inspiration for helping your audience envision the journey from problem to resolve for a solution.
  3. Hold events and workshops: This may be something you are already doing, imparting knowledge and sharing strategy with attendees. But not everyone is able to join in the moment. You’ll have hours of valuable content to share based on your existing hard work.
  4. Keep It Fresh: Stale content is a surefire way to drive away readers – so keep things fresh by frequently updating your content or mixing things up on regular intervals. Try different types of content (e.g. videos, infographics etc.), look for data-driven stories which are relevant to your audience or create customer stories that will resonate with them emotionally.
  5. Leverage Your Network: Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help from your board, volunteers or even other non-profits who may have expertise you lack. Working together to share content can create a much more powerful connection with your audience.
  6. Have a plan and stick to it: A content calendar is essential for staying organized and making sure your message remains consistent across all channels. Set specific goals, create deadlines, and assign tasks so everyone on your team knows what they are responsible for.
  7. Make use of visuals: Content with visuals has been proven to be much more effective than just text alone; people are twice as likely to remember something if it’s accompanied by a picture or video! Whether you want to include infographics, charts, videos or even memes – make sure your content stands out with some eye-catching images.
  8. Get creative with storytelling techniques: Non-profits can benefit greatly from weaving stories into their content marketing efforts; stories help to build relationships and engage audiences. Use personal accounts, interviews, or anecdotes to bring your message to life and make it more relatable.
  9. Measure your results: Your content strategy should always be evaluated in order to see what works best for you and what can be improved on for the future. Track key metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, leads generated, etc., so you can get a better understanding of how effective your content is at achieving its goals.
  10. Utilize influencers: If you have some budget available for your marketing efforts, consider partnering with influential individuals who are already well-known within the non-profit sector or even beyond it – this will boost visibility and credibility for your organization. Reach out to influencers and see if they would be interested in helping you promote your cause.

By following these content creation tips, you can have a successful content creation strategy that will help you reach more people and make a bigger impact on your cause. Good luck!

Backyard Talk Homepage

Contrary to Popular Belief, Climate Change is a Key Issue among Voters of Color this Election

Photo credit: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

By Sharon Franklin.

Victoria St. Martin, reporter for Inside Climate News, recently reported on a poll concerning people of color and climate change. The results run counter to the historical belief that environmental issues are a low priority for BIPOC groups. About 70 percent of people of color who responded to the poll said climate change had a significant impact on their home regions or communities. 86% of Asian American and Pacific Islander respondents, approximately 72% percent of African Americans, and 76 % of Hispanic voters said their communities had been affected.

The Poll’s Key Findings:

  • Midterm voters of color are hopeful and motivated to get involved with the progress the U.S. is making on climate change, even as overall midterm voters feel frustrated by the slow progress being made. A clear majority of voters believe it is important that the groups and organizations working to address climate change are racially and ethnically diverse – shares are even stronger among voters of color.
  • Outside of the economy, climate change has broken through as a top priority among overall likely midterm voters and voters of color; it is now equally as important to them as abortion, immigration, and gun violence.
  • Voters are overwhelmingly concerned by the perceived worsening impacts of climate change – especially voters of color of which three in four are worried about climate change’s direct effects on their lives. Voters’ sense of urgency to address the issue is even stronger.
  • Diversegreen’s research even finds that climate change alone can decisively influence voters’ choice of candidates at the ballot box this November. Voters of color are overwhelmingly more likely to support a candidate for Congress who has “addressing climate change” as one of their top three priorities. Messaging only improves support for such candidates.

Additionally, the poll found that 64 percent of people of color who responded were either “much more likely” or “somewhat more likely” to support Congressional candidates who indicated that “addressing climate change” is one of their top three priorities.  These were the communities most negatively affected by droughts, flooding, and wildfires.

Andres Jimenez, Executive Director of Green 2.0, stated “It’s really a testament that candidates need to stop shying away from the issues of climate change because it is a winning priority among voters of color.  It should be a game changer for candidates who are going to communities of color, working with leaders of color to really prioritize and work on these issues, to listen to these communities, to talk about climate change, because it is on voters’ minds as they head to the polls.”

Jimenez, continued by affirming “Climate change impacts communities of color, frontline communities the most. And as we move forward to be aggressive and to accelerate the conversation around climate change and to address these issues, we need diversity within those conversations.  In conclusion, Jimenez stated “We’re hoping that this poll reaches those types of candidates and that they’re inspired by this and go and speak with these communities, but also take time to listen to what these communities have to say about how climate change is impacting their communities, their families and themselves.”

Backyard Talk Homepage

A Brief Analysis of the Inflation Reduction Bill (2022)

This graphic summarize the allocated spending categories included in the Inflation Reduction Act. Each $1 is equal to about 1 billion dollars.

Photo credit: Council of State Governments

By Hunter Marion.

On August 16th, 2022, President Biden signed into law the largest, most comprehensive environmental bill in our country’s history, the Inflation Reduction Act (2022). It might even be more impactful than the milestone environmental legislation passed during the 1970s.

The IRA is a massive bill, encompassing a mind-boggling list of new laws ranging from prescription drug regulation to rejuvenating the IRS to environmental justice to agricultural carbon sequestration to the Justice40 Initiative. It is packed with new policies, tax credits, and grants determined to simultaneously reduce future economic downturn and bolster the United States as the world’s frontrunner in green technology and environmentalism. As exciting and momentous an achievement as this is within the environmental movement, it is not immune to criticism.

Without a doubt, the IRA is full of marvelous carrots designed to incentivize compliance. It provides plentiful tax credits and rebates to taxpayers and companies who buy into or transition to cleaner technologies, like electric appliances, EVs, or renewable energy sources. Low-income or BIPOC grassroots groups and EJ communities can access more readily available funding for air monitoring technology, technical assistance, urban forestry, and more. Even government contractors can see their subsidized budgets and clientele sizably increase if they comply to prevailing wage and apprenticeship guidelines. However, this bill is surprisingly limited on sticks.

The sticks that are present do have potential to make meaningful environmental changes. For instance, the IRA taxes corporations at a much higher rate for leaking methane, holding a land lease without developing it, or refusing to comply with renewable energy transitions. The Superfund excise tax (which was reinstated in 2021) has even been applied to crude oil/petroleum products and a list of chemical substances, including two PFAS. (Polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “PFAS,” are extremely pervasive and long-lasting chemicals or microplastics known to be harmful to human health). Nevertheless, for a bill determined to lower national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to pre-2005 levels, it hesitates to give the oil and gas (O&G) industry a slap on the wrist. It even provides hearty kickbacks to the O&G industry, such as authorizing the lease of previously unavailable offshore wells in Alaska and the Gulf Coast and allowing extraction wells to be located nearby (or preferred over) wind or solar farms.

Along with failing to directly limit O&G, this bill also ignores a few key battles within the environmental movement. First, hazardous fracking waste regulation is absent from the bill. As detailed in my previous blog, orphaned radioactive fracking waste is a national issue that falls through the cracks of most state and federal regulatory agencies. Second, the PFAS that are included in the renewed Superfund chemicals list are “legacy” PFAS. They are no longer manufactured (some stopped being made over 15 years ago) but still have significant presence within EJ communities. Despite their inclusion being a success to these groups, it belies the fact that hundreds of other similarly dangerous PFAS are still being synthesized and sold without much regulation. Lastly, the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), a program intended to put restoration and conservation efforts directly into the hands of community members, was absent from the finalized bill. The Biden Administration designed the CCC to be a climate-based government program modeled after the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) or Civil Works Administration (CWA). It was a revitalized effort to make environmentalism and community decision-making accessible for lower-wealth, BIPOC, and young people. Sadly, those plans fell through at the last minute. In fairness, it is truly remarkable that this bill passed at all, especially since its authority is uncertain.

As of late, the U.S. Supreme Court has been set on undermining crucial environmental regulations. In West Virginia v. EPA (2022), SCOTUS ruled that the EPA could not put state-level caps on carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. In Sackett v. EPA (2023), SCOTUS is likely to rule in favor of reducing protections of wetlands and waterways harbored under the Clean Water Act. It would not be any surprise if a case against one of the hundreds of policies contained in the IRA made its way to the Supreme Court. Nor would it be a shock if they too ruled in favor of dismantling a central component to these new environmental laws. The good news, however, is that this would likely be a decades-long process due to the copious number of laws and policies included in this bill. Now, if an anti-environmentalist collective were to gain the majority in the U.S. Congress in a future election cycle, that would be a different story.

No matter how likely a retaliation to this bill is or how much it is missing, it does not invalidate the small joy of watching the U.S. try to take a huge step towards becoming a greener, cleaner country. However, we must acknowledge that this bill does not nearly satisfy environmentalists’ demands, especially with Sen. Manchin’s “Dirty Bill” looming over it.

To learn more about the Inflation Reduction Act, check out this informative video by Hank Green of the VlogBrothers.

Backyard Talk Homepage

Why the EPA Is Like It Is

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

By William Sanjour.

Some of you may remember Bill Sanjour. Bill was a life-long employee of EPA in the Office of Solid Waste. He was an active critic of the agency, and he wrote several articles about the agency where he spent most of his working life. This is an excerpt from one of these articles. Contact for a copy of the complete article.

I am frequently asked why the United States Environmental Protection Agency does not seem to be particularly interested in protecting the environment. EPA is frequently cited as not only failing to protect the environment but even for working at cross purposes to environmental protection. I’ve concluded that to understand why EPA is the way that it is, you must start at the top, at the White House.

Any President of the United States and his immediate staff have an agenda of about a half dozen issues that they are most concerned with. These are usually national security, foreign affairs, the economy, the budget, and maybe one or two other issues. These I’ll call the Class A priorities. Other presidential responsibilities such as housing, education, welfare, transportation, the environment, veteran’s affairs, etc. I’ll call Class B priorities.

Equally important, but less well-known is the so-called “hidden agenda.” This includes such considerations as getting re-elected, getting supporters re-elected, and “where do we go when our term in office is over?” The hidden agenda is not peculiar to the White House as similar considerations are shared by every government official from the Speaker of the House to the House janitor. We are, after all, talking about people who, although they may be lofty government dignitaries, nevertheless have mortgages to pay, children to send to college, and orthodontist bills. When one brings the hidden agenda out of hiding, the actions of the government become the actions of people and they become clearer.

For the Class A priorities, the President appoints people he knows, and trusts and he demands performance. He will expect the military to be able to deploy forces anywhere in the world when an emergency arises. If they are not ready when he needs them, he will “bang heads and kick asses.” But can you picture any President of the United States bringing the Secretary of Education into his office and slamming his fist on the table because of low SAT scores in Sheboygan? Or bringing the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency into the oval office to chew him out for the pollution in the Cuyahoga River? I can’t. And that, to my mind, is the difference. The President expects performance in Class A. He expects something else in Class B.

That something else is peace and quiet. The President will usually appoint people to head Class B agencies who are amenable to the special interests concerned with that agency, rather than his own cronies, but the message that goes out from the White House to the managers in Class B is, “do anything you want so long as it doesn’t impinge on the President’s Class A priorities.” But EPA can do almost nothing which doesn’t adversely affect business, especially big and influential business, and that disturbs the President’s peace and quiet. Furthermore, uncovering the hidden agenda reveals that the President needs big business to finance election campaigns and his staff is looking ahead to parlaying their White House experience to seven figure jobs in private industry.

The Administrator of EPA is usually someone who is agreeable to the mainline environmentalists but one who is also a “team player.” He can make all the speeches he wants about the environmental ethic, but he must not do anything to make waves. This message permeates the entire agency. The message isn’t transmitted through written or even oral instructions. It’s more a case of survival of the “fittest.” People who like to get things done, people who need to see concrete results for their efforts, don’t last long at EPA. When it comes to drafting and implementing rules for environmental protection, getting results means making enemies of powerful and influential people. No, they don’t usually get fired, but they don’t get advanced either, and their responsibilities are transferred to other people, and they usually leave the agency in disgust. The kind of people who get ahead are those clever wimps who can be terribly busy while they procrastinate, obfuscate, and come up with superficially plausible reasons for not accomplishing anything.

The bottom line is that if you want EPA to pay attention to you, you have to affect the careers of EPA employees. If you organize and have a large block of supporters, then you can influence local, state, and federal elections. You can also use your influence on local banks, merchants, or anyone else who might be tempted to profit from a hazardous waste facility in your backyard. By pressuring these people, you in turn affect the pocketbooks and careers of EPA employees, and thus their actions. If you win locally, EPA will follow.