The Front

Pork Barrelling for NAFTA

THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION passed off more than a dozen pork barrel deals to members of the House of Representatives in an attempt to gain passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

 The charges of White House deals to gain NAFTA votes were made in a report by Public Citizen and Citizen Trade Campaign, and separately by Greenpeace and an article by the Washington Times.

 NAFTA was approved in the House of Representatives by a vote of 234 to 200 on November 19, 1993.

 The deals made by the Clinton administration during the all out lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill over NAFTA include a deal to buy two extra C-17 Military Cargo Planes with Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas. According to the Public Citizen/Citizen Trade Campaign report, the deal will cost the taxpayers $1.4 billion.

 The report said that new Representative Johnson's support for NAFTA was tied to a commitment from the Administration to buy six C-17s for 1994, instead of the previous plan to buy four. The C-17 is built in Johnson's South Dallas district. The much-maligned C-17 program has design flaws which have caused its cargo doors to open unexpectedly in midflight and wings to buckle in flight testing. The program is five years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

 A deal with Florida vegetable growers gave $16 million for the completion of an agricultural research center in Fort Pierce, Florida. In addition, the Administration promised to protect Florida vegetable growers during the current GATT negotiations. Four Florida Representatives were targeted with the vegetable deal.

 Greenpeace was sharply critical of part of the Administration's deal with the Florida growers which allowed the continued use of an ozone-depleting fumigant, methyl bromide, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had planned to phase out this year. The White House agreed to delay restrictions on the use of the methyl bromide until after the year 2000.

Methyl bromide is widely used by Florida growers, and is manufactured in the United States exclusively by two Arkansas companies, according to Greenpeace. The two companies produce half of the world's methyl bromide.

 Under the Montreal Protocol, the United States has committed to freezing methyl bromide production at 1991 levels by 1995. Under the Clean Air Act, the United States has separately committed to a complete phaseout of methyl bromide by 2000.

 "If Bill Clinton is willing to sell out the ozone layer for a few votes, how can we trust him when he tells us NAFTA is good for the environment?" said Melanie Duchin, of Greenpeace. "Five more years of unlimited methyl bromide production means more ozone destruction and more Americans at risk of skin cancer - but to Bill Clinton, it's just pork-barrel politics as usual."

 According to Duchin, the side deals made by the White House, "also reveal the hollowness of the so-called ĉside agreements' to NAFTA, which the administration cynically tried to push as environmental protection."

 Other examples of pork cited by the public interest groups and the Washington Times include:

- Ben Lilliston

 

Canada's Toxic Regulatory Gap

THE SIX NATIONS NATIVE reserve near Brantford, Ontario is no stranger to environmental problems. Sitting near the Canadian industrial heartland, the reserve has attracted refuse from surrounding communities, dumped illicitly by unscrupulous entrepreneurs.

 Since the late 1980s, when community concern arose over 6,000 used tires disposed of on- reserve, waste ranging from medical detritus to industrial sludge has been discovered at a score of unofficial on-reserve dumpsites.

 And the Six Nations reserve is not alone in being a receptacle for off-reserve waste. In an era of free trade, when differing national environmental standards may come to determine the ebbs and flows of waste disposal, reserves throughout Canada have become havens for other people's garbage.

 Reserves have been called "pollution vacuums" by the prestigious Canadian Council of Environment Ministers. And a report prepared by the Canadian government's Department of Indian Affairs in 1991 and released under Canada's Access to Information law in the summer of 1993 notes that "reserves are increasingly viewed by outside interests as potential sites for disposal and recycling enterprises."

 Dumping on reserves: protected by law

 Under the Canadian Constitution, Indian lands are the exclusive domain of the federal government. As a result, the relatively comprehensive provincial environmental laws do not apply to Native lands, making them an attractive dumping ground.

 Waste disposal on reserves is regulated only by a set of outdated federal provisions. The Indian Affairs Department, in its 1991 report, calls the 20-year old waste regulations "worthless." Michel Blondin, implementation manager at Indian Affairs' Environmental Directorate, offers a more tempered assessment. "We don't hide that the regulations we have are weak in dealing with illegal dumping," says Blondin. Yet, "the government has the power to bring a violator to court and, if the individual is found guilty, obtain a court order requiring a clean-up." The regulations do require potential dumpers to acquire permits before proceeding, Blondin points out.

 James Ransom, on staff at Canada's national Native coalition, the Assembly of First Nations, says the government deserves no credit for its regulatory record. According to Ransom, the "open season" on reserve waste dumping is a function, not only of the inadequacy of the regulations, but of the government's lackluster enforcement record.

 Even the 1991 Indian Affairs report supports the view that federal oversight of waste disposal is insufficient. According to the report, the permit requirement contained in the regulations has never been enforced. This is confirmed by Vivian Bomberry, the Six Nations chief's executive assistant. "When the illegal dumping controversy first started," says Bomberry, "we requested that Indian Affairs enforce the federal regulations, and they wouldn't."

 A reserve government has few options in such a situation. As James Ransom notes, very few Native governments have the resources to monitor potentially hazardous dumping on reserves properly. Moreover, their capacity to move on the issue is curtailed by the Federal government's Indian Act. "The Indian Act undermines your capacity to do things in your own territory," says Bomberry. "When you try to implement controls, along comes Indian Affairs and says, ĉWe're sorry, but that's contrary to regulations under the Indian Act.' Then when you say, ĉAlright, then come out and enforce them,' nothing happens."

 Exploiting the Vacuum

 The companies whose waste was found on-reserve at Six Nations may not have been aware of the content of the Indian Act and its archaic waste regulations. But those eventually nabbed by the irate reserve government (acting beyond its legal authority in bringing charges under the regulations) knew a regulatory vacuum when they saw one. "What companies were aware of," says Bomberry, "is that in order to take waste to a site off-reserve, they have to get prior approval and pay tipping fees."

The discrepancy between relatively stringent municipal and provincial regulations and the federal reserve regime provides an easy path to corporate savings. For the Natives contracted to haul and dump the waste, the legal inconsistency can mean a handsome profit. Most of the haulers contracted to dump on the Six Nations reserve were what Bomberry calls "unscrupulous Indian entrepreneurs." Many of the Natives who work with the dumpers are unemployed, and for them the waste flow provides a ready supplement to a small income. Companies are often willing to pay a per unit fee to residents willing to store refuse such as tires. The Six Nations situation is typical, according to the Indian Affairs Environmental Directorate's Blondin. Blondin says he is unaware of an instance where a company dumped on-reserve without Native involvement.

 Waste Dilemmas

 It is evident that lax federal regulation is not the only thing sucking waste onto reserves. In Canada's impoverished Native reserves, the economic benefits of accepting other people's waste are significant and they accrue to reserve governments as well as to individuals. In Ransom's estimation, Native leaders are often drawn into potentially deleterious waste projects by the promise of profit and remain ill-informed of the likely consequences of their activities.

 A number of reserves - including Six Nations - have turned down waste disposal firms seeking to set up operations in order to exploit the regulatory gap. But in other instances, reserve governments have been accused by on-reserve environmentalists of lining their pockets by permitting suspect waste disposal operations. In still other cases, reserve governments, operating above-board and in concert with their citizens, have actively sought out waste management contracts in the hope of luring capital and jobs to Indian lands.

 Though legal, these initiatives have often drawn fierce opposition from nearby communities. The struggles between reserves and the surrounding provinces over waste management go to the heart of the Native self-determination debate. The Sumas incinerator project in British Columbia is a case in point. When Larry Ned, general manager of the Native-owned and operated Sumas Clay Products brick factory, approached John Bennett, president of Bennett Remediation Services, several years ago, he thought a Bennett-run oily-waste incinerator would bring economic benefit to a reserve with an 80 percent unemployment rate. In Ned's estimation, the incinerator was a "great deal," one that would provide employment to 30 of the Sumas reserve's residents and surplus electricity that the reserve could sell to British Columbia's provincial power utility.

 Bennett believed the $4 million incinerator proposal represented a win-win situation. It would enable British Columbia to dispose of the oil-contaminated soil found throughout the province without relying on an expensive export arrangement with Oregon. Moreover, the Sumas site was ideal from a technical perspective. "The area was good," says Bennett. "It was on a good clay base. It was far enough from any other community. It wouldn't bother anybody. The Native band had the labor and needed jobs. Everybody was to gain."

 The reserve government agreed, and in 1992, it approved the project.

 But nearby off-reserve communities, weary of pollution flowing eastward from Vancouver, had instituted a ban on all incinerators and were appalled to find a different standard applying on-reserve.

 Many critics argue the Sumas project provided a means for Bennett to circumvent the strict off- reserve regulations. "The company specifically chose Indian land to avoid municipal by-laws," says Chris Rolfe, of Canada's West Coast Environmental Law Association.

 Bennett denies any suggestion that he was responding to legal discrepancies. "It was written into the incinerator contract that we had to comply with federal and provincial laws, whichever were the stronger," he says. Moreover, despite community fears to the contrary, Bennett insists that the incinerator was not a public health threat. "Our permit wouldn't have allowed really hazardous substances. We were going to burn what you burn in your car: oil. Our emissions wouldn't have bothered anyone. The Native brick plant is more of a hazard than this incinerator. The Indians had to decide the issue, and they wanted it. The surrounding communities were miles away."

 Yet, the off-reserve opposition pursued its challenge to the project, and Indian Affairs stepped in, demanding that its own initial environmental study be supplemented by another report. This additional assessment, prepared by an independent consultant, came out in favor of the project.

 In the face of continued off-reserve resistance, however, the Minister of Indian Affairs called for a full Federal Environmental Assessment. Bennett, having already invested more than $350,000 on the project, balked at the prospect of another year's delay and at the $100,000 price tag of the study. "There was no commitment that we would be able to proceed after the study," says Bennett. "The whole issue had become purely political. We felt that pursuing the project was a poor gamble."

 The project's demise left a particularly sour taste in Larry Ned's mouth. In an angry letter to Indian Affairs, Ned wrote "Our fight for the future of our people will triumph over your department's feeble machinations."

 Other People's Waste

 The issue of waste on reserves will remain in the public spotlight as Canadian Native people obtain greater autonomy from the federal government.

 For the reserves which are seeking greater authority in beefing up and enforcing lax federal environmental rules, self-determination may mean fewer instances of illegal dumping. At Six Nations, for example, the reserve has obtained the federal government's grudging approval for a new waste by-law. Enforced by local police, the new law, in effect since May, has seemingly put the midnight dumpers out of business.

 In other instances, however, reserve governments focusing on short-term economic gain may choose to accept other people's garbage. The Sumas government, for example, has said that it would go ahead with the incinerator if it should ever escape the "paternal grasp" of Indian Affairs.

 These differing approaches make the future of Canada's Native reserves unclear. Some observers, like Chris Rolfe, worry that the Native self-determination debate might leave behind environmental concerns. "Most aboriginal people don't want to see waste disposed of on their property," says Rolfe. "When greater self-government treaties are negotiated, environmental standards should be dealt with." But others believe that Indian autonomy must include allowing Native people to make their own waste management decisions. Native entrepreneurs like Larry Ned will continue to view other people's waste as a viable business opportunity for reserves.

 Whoever the decision makers, the struggle between those who wish to safeguard the environment and those who hope to bring economic development to the reserves through waste management will continue.

 -Craig Forcese