November 23, 2006

Protect Corporations, Not Children!!!


By Peter Montague

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) -- formerly known as the Chemical Manufacturers Association -- on November 16 filed a second lawsuit against the City of San Francisco, aiming to prevent the City from protecting children from toxic chemicals in toys. San Francisco passed a law in June prohibiting the sale of toys containing six toxic chemicals called phthalates (tha-lates) and another toxicant called bisphenol-A.

In October, the ACC and other corporations sued the city in California state court, claiming that state law preempted the city's right to protect children by controlling toxics in toys. The second lawsuit was filed in federal court and it claims that federal law preempts the city's right to protect its children from toxic chemicals in toys. Specifically, the ACC's complaint says theFederal Hazardous Substances Act, plus decisions by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, make it illegal for municipalities to pass laws to regulate toxic materials in toys.

This is a definite trend -- corporations trying to prevent local governments from passing laws to protect citizens against hazards and dangers created by corporations. In many instances the federal Congress is passing laws that prevent local governments from passing laws to curb corporate abuses. It's called "federal preemption."

We can draw three conclusions from this second lawsuit:

1. This is a major attack on the precautionary principle. The American Chemistry Council has hired a fancy-pants law firm to pursue this case. Clearly the ACC is putting a lot of money behind its effort tostop San Francisco from taking a precautionary approach to protecting children.

2. This lawsuit is a sign of just how powerful and bold corporations have become that they would sue San Francisco, asserting that corporations have the right to expose children to known poisons and there's nothing local governments or individual citizens can do about it. They are thumbing their noses at the Moms of the world and at everyone else who may try to protect children from chemical trespass.

3. There is one benefit from a lawsuit like this: It allows us to see clearly that the system we call "regulation" was set up not to protect citizens from harm, but to protect corporations from citizens who try to curb corporate power. The regulatory system doesn't regulate polluters -- it regulates citizens, by strictly limiting how they are allowed to respond to corporate abuse.


Happy Thanksgiving.


Kvatch said...

The last time this type of nonsense was tried on the City of San Francisco, United Airlines tried to preempt San Francisco's domestic partners ordinance. (In short, all corporations doing businesss with the City are required to offer their employees the same benefits that the City offers to its workers, and United leases a maintenance base at SFO.) The City threatened to have United kicked out of SFO. United sued despite offering those same benefits overseas where it's required by national law.

Their case hinged on a claim that they should not be subject to a patchwork of regulations--municipal, state, federal. And...they lost in federal court. I hope the ACC receives the same treatment.

And...Happy Thanksgiving!

Kilgore Trout said...

Have you ever heard of Democracy School? Im not sue where all they have had them but they are typically a 3 day class on exactly this issue. I did one a couple months back and would highly recomend it if there is one in your area. Because yes the regulatory system is exaclty as you said, its there to protect the corporation and not to protect the people.

Ohio Health Exchange said...

Funny how things change in four short years. Is this Blog active, by the way?