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Robert Greenwald

Robert Greenwald is a producer, director, political activist, and Brave New Films founder and president.

October 13th, 2011 8:06 PM

Exposing the Koch brothers' polluted response

Billionaire political donors Charles and David Koch were among the tens of thousands of viewers of our latest investigative film, and they didn't like it. 

Our film's protagonists, one of whom is a local minister named David Bouie, made personal appeals for a visit by the Koch brothers. The Kochs do not acknowledge this honest request that David Koch, a cancer survivor himself, spend the night as a guest of Mr. Bouie's in Crossett, Arkansas, a community harassed by a Koch factory's pollution. 

What are the Koch brothers hiding if they won't visit one of their own factories and company towns? The Kochs ignored the invitation, instead resorting to smear tactics and deception, this time attacking David Bouie, a 64-year-old retired factory worker, in an attempt to duck responsibility for their $100 billion multinational corporation. 

The Kochs' defensiveness belies the facts. Rather than relocating the residents whose stories we told, the Koch brothers' reaction demonstrates they've bought the system and they prefer to blame the victims for their illnesses. 

Blaming the victims for being victims

Mr. Bouie explained his personal history selling his rights years ago to the Koch brothers' subsidiary company, Georgia-Pacific, for a few hundred dollars. In Mr. Bouie's blog, he explained how his neighbors in adjacent communities were compensated by Georgia-Pacific at a higher rate than he and how the polluting factory paid for their relocation. Mr. Bouie and his neighbors had no such luck reaching the Koch brothers person to person. Instead, the Koch brothers attack his credibility and integrity on a website. 

In their smears, the Koch brothers' message consultants turn their fire toward Cheryl Slavant, another protagonist in our film and the President of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. She's rightfully aghast by the terrible conditions surrounding the interstate Ouachita River, which is what's fouling Mr. Bouie's neighborhood on Penn Road. 

The Koch brothers spin cannot acknowledge what our investigation and countless other credible reports have proven to be true: that the Koch brothers persuade a system to permit and tolerate their practices. The Koch brothers' nameless spokespeople claim the EPA has debunked all Slavant's claims so, ergo, the pollution emitted by Koch Industries and Georgia Pacific is safe, harmless and legal.

An EPA influenced by Charles and David Koch 

Armed with more than $40 billion each and a private company unaccountable to anyone that generates $100 billion revenue annually, the Koch brothers are able to donate to politicians, foundations, non-profits and think tanks. These Koch supported groups lay the groundwork for incremental policy changes that support the Koch brothers' increasing corporate profits

That the EPA is giving the green light to toxic pollution by the Koch brothers, or anyone else, is less a gold star for the Koch brothers than it is an indictment of our political system, which affords the wealthiest 1 percent a blank check at the expense of the bottom 99 percent. The Koch brothers' "fact checkers" say that air pollution control engineering expert William M. Auberle's comments in our film describing GP's pollution as "a ticking time bomb" is unrealistic. The government permits Koch Industries emissions. 

That's why we're pleased to see some environmental groups confronting the EPA on these grounds. While the Kochs continue to donate heavily to Congress, there are groups appealing to the notion that we're a nation of laws not men. "The Clean Water Act does not allow our streams to be turned into industrial sewers," says Barry Sulkin, the former Chief of Enforcement and Compliance for the Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control and a director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Or perhaps you could post a comment that David Bouie and Cheryl Slavant can hand-deliver to the Koch brothers and that echoes Mr. Bouie's direct appeal to David Koch.

As Mr. Bouie wrote:

David, if you're reading this, I want to be your host at 401 South Penn Road. Come stay with me for one day, seven days, I don't care. We can camp out, and you can smell what I smell. My wife and I will cook for you. I make great pork chops... It'd be my hope we can have some time to go for a walk. You can see for yourself- the fog- and smell for yourself- the rotten air- that I live with every day. And I pray that I might be able to convince you to clean up this mess and relocate us like Georgia-Pacific did for other communities like ours. Indeed, just as Georgia Pacific compensated Thurman Road residents for their relocation years ago, please be a good neighbor to us. We cannot relocate on our own. We are ground zero.
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