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Killing Right-to-Know: The proposition 65 counterattack

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The industry was stunned by the defeat. Their polls had indicated "the issue was still winnable up until the last hours of the campaign." (view entire document) The industry launched a counteroffensive against the right-to-know that continues to this day.

First they filed lawsuits to block Prop. 65. When that failed, they tried to weaken the law by attacking specifics of its implementation. That also largely failed, so they focused their efforts and resources on stopping the spread of meaningful right-to-know (RTK) laws to other states. For more than 15 years, CMA and its affiliated state associations have reached out like a toxic octopus to choke every local and state right-to-know effort with lawsuits, lobbying campaigns, political influence peddling and distorted advertising.

CMA documents reveal that in the decade following Bhopal, the Association spent well over $10 million on state-level efforts to counter right-to-know initiatives and related measures. (view entire document) They have not stopped RTK - the industry's preferred term is "risk communication" - but in many places they have effectively blunted its impact, amending tough proposals to conform to the industry's traditional practice of secrecy.

"Right-to-know" actually includes several categories of information: letting chemical workers know the truth about occupational hazards; making public data about the manufacture, use and release of toxic substances; and disclosing the possible consequences of a chemical accident. CMA has consistently fought them all.

According to the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know, the first state-level worker RTK laws were passed in the late 1970s, and the first community right-to-know law was in Philadelphia in 1981. By 1984, about 14 states had some form of worker or community right-to-know law. By 1987, the year after Bhopal, the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (EPCRA) had been enacted and about half the states had some form of RTK law. California's and New Jersey's RTK laws are generally considered the toughest in the nation.

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last updated: march.27.2009

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