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ber, in convention packets containing the supporting “rationale” as well. Things were quiet until just before the convention, early in November. Then all hell broke loose. KIM PHILLIPS IS the president of the Midway High School PTA as well as the TPTA environmental chair, and she has achieved a statewide reputation as an environmental activist since her 1990 campaign against the expansion of a Waco-area landfill near her son’s elementary school. That controversy led her to the investigation of other environmental problems. “It started as a concern for our own children,” she says, “and became a vocation.” In recent years Phillips and her fellow PTA members have become more concerned about the widespread danger of dioxin pollution, to which infants and small children are particularly susceptible. Recent research has shown that dioxins \(the term refers to a whole class of related complex chemicals, many toxic to a greater or widespread and ecologically persistent than previously realized. Although dioxins may occur in naand widespread dissemination has expanded dramatically in the last sixty years of industrial society, only diminishing to a degree recently in response to public attention and stronger government regulation. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified dioxin as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and researchers have found that the non-cancerous effects, especially on fetal and infant development, may be equally serious: mutations, birth defects and related developmental defects, immune-system damage, and perhaps breast cancer, sterility and other deleterious effects in adults. The research concerning the effects on children were particularly alarming to the PTA parents, and after a Dallas EPA hearing confirmed for them that dioxin is passed in breast milk from mothers to nursing infants, they decided to act. The result was the Midway PTA resolution, which in a single page describes briefly but accurately the persistence and potential effects of dioxin, some of its more important sources in chlorine-based products and processes, notes the connection between dioxin and the processing or combustion of chlorine, and firmly resolves that the PTA support the development of “alternative products and processes, especially those that are chlorine-free.” Far from being particularly controversial in Phillips’ home community, the resolution passed almost unanimously. “We had such a reputation for being involved and know ing what we were doing,” said Phillips, “that our community just expects us to know what we’re talking about, and is very supportive of these environmental concerns.” Phillips says she received a single phone call from a man who vehemently opposed the resolution, and she invited him to come to the school and join the debate. He did not appear. Thus, after that vote and the late summer distribution of the resolution, it came as a surprise to Phillips that just ten days before the convention her phone began ringing off the hook, as did the phones of the TPTA offices in Austin. She soon found out that the fax machines were also running, across Texas and all the way to Washington, D.C. Apparently, some PTA members with connections to the chemical industry and its trade groups had suddenly focused on the two resolutions, and were mounting, a con certed effort against them. To anyone who would listen, they described the anti-dioxin resolution as an un-scientific attempt to “ban chlorine,” and the cement kiln resolution as an undemocratic threat to legitimate businesses. Just the list of names involved in laying siege to the PTA would be intimidating to the average PTA subcommittee. The industry groups and their allies directly involved ing: Chlorine Chemistry Council, Texas Chemical Council, Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce, Texas Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association, Association of Chemical Industry of Texas, Texas Institute for the Advancement of Chemical Technology, Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. Those were just the trade and lobbying groups, who usually only come out of the woodwork in such force at the state legislature; chemical companies represented individually included Dow Chemical and Occidental Petroleum \(number one and two, respecDuPont, and of course TXI. Moreover, the industry people enlisted at least one state legislator as well as the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to put additional pressure on the PTA members. The industry public relations people were smart enough to realize that if they attacked directly, making their vested interests obvious, PTA members might react negatively. So they were careful to advance their campaign through apparently ordi nary PTA members who just happened to be concerned about the two resolutions, which they described as “one-sided…inaccurate and misleading.” Those phrases are from a cover letter sent before the convention to PTA members and convention delegates, on ordinary stationery and from a group of six PTA members who describe themselves as “concerned parents.” It accompanied a sizable packet of what it called “additional information from leading citizen and business organizations, academic scientists and public officials,” including some, of those already listed above. What the letter didn’t say, of course, was that it had been written by the Texas Chemical Council with the help of the Chlorine Chemistry Council, and that three of the six “concerned parents” who signed itJeff Gray of Austin, Ken Haseley of Richardson, and Barbara Pederson of Kingwoodare members of the Chemical Council, as acknowledged by the Council’s Mark Shilling. Pederson is also a “Waste Team Leader” for DuPont. Harold Green, TXI’ s director of communications and the company’s chief defender of hazardous waste burning, was another signerthough only in the guise of a PTA member from Dallas’ Lipscomb Elementary. Harry Snyder signed as the “Environmental Chair” of “Austin Forest Wood North Elementary.” \(Actually, he told me later, “they screwed that all up: it’s Forest happens to be an independent “government affairs consultant” for mining companies, and the former head of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining in the Bush Administration. \(He is also the husband of Peggy Venable, former Reagan White House education liaison, and now director of something called “Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy,” which, according to Venable, promotes As if these disguises weren’t enough, the Chemical Council letter quickly stooped to deception about the nature of the PTA resolutions themselves. The anti-dioxin resolution was described as calling for eliminating dioxin “through a ban on chlorine and chlorine-derived products,” which the resolution does not advocate, asking instead for the support of alternative technologies. Similarly, the cement kiln resolution is described as opposing the “permitting and operation of a cement plant in Midlothian which burns hazardous waste as fuel,” carefully phrased to suggest that the operation of the plant itself is the real issue, and not its ardous waste incinerator. In short, the Chemical Council’s letter can be conservatively described, using its After a Dallas EPA hearing confirmed for them that dioxin is passed in breast milk from mothers to nursing infants, they decided to act. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5