PavementCouncil.org submitted a Request for Correction (RfC) of information to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Data Quality Act (DQA). The RfC challenges the EPA’s reliance on outdated papers that offer theories about the alleged impact of refined coal tar-based sealants (RTS) on the environment. All of the studies cited by the EPA were published years ago by staff affiliated with the US Geological Survey (USGS) or the City of Austin. Most of the conclusions proffered in these publications have been called into question by more recent peer reviewed articles and comments published in well respected scientific journals. Up to now, the more recent literature concerning RTS has been overlooked by the EPA. The RfC is available on EPA’s Information Quality web site.
One EPA publication that specifically has been challenged can be found at the EPA’s CADDIS website. CADDIS is an EPA initiative developed to help scientists and engineers assess the manner in which aquatic systems can be affected by a large number of “stressors,” such as those commonly associated with urbanization. Guidance offered by the EPA at this website emphasizes how important it is to consider all relevant evidence when determining the cause or causes of various environmental impacts. The guidance strongly encourages consultation with industry stakeholders who may have important insights and expertise. However, when it comes to RTS, the EPA thus far has failed to solicit input from PavementCouncil.org or consider industry funded research. This oversight has forced PavementCouncil.org to use the formal RfC process as a way to update the EPA, and the public, about the manner in which the scientific literature has evolved. As pointed out in the RfC, the EPA also has overlooked reports and studies prepared by other government agencies that have failed to support the RTS hypotheses offered by the USGS and the City of Austin in their older studies.
PavementCouncil.org also seeks correction of a document titled Coal-Tar Sealcoat, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, and Stormwater Pollution which purports to define a “Stormwater Best Management Practice.” Again, in generating this document, the EPA has relied on outdated articles published by the USGS and City of Austin team even though those articles have been critiqued in more recent peer reviewed publications. Such selective use of the scientific literature, citing articles only on one side of a scientific debate, is an example of what appears to be White Hat Bias (“bias leading to the distortion of information in the service of what may be perceived to be righteous ends.”). Since evidence documented in many articles and comments on RTS have been omitted from this second EPA document, PavementCoatings.org was forced to address these issues as well in the RfC that has just been filed.
PavementCouncil.org has challenged the USGS studies via three DQA filings since May, 2013, available on the USGS web site. That process is still ongoing.
What is the Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project?
What is the purpose of Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project?
The Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project goal is “This project supports reduction or phase-out of the use of coal tar-based sealcoats for asphalt pavement surfaces”(Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2013a). One must note that a different project goal is listed on a non-MPCA website which states “…promote phase-out of coal tar-based pavement sealcoat (CTS) in order to reduce environmental loading of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)”(Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project, n.d.). Note that the consistent phase between the two definitions is “phase out”. Product phase-outs (bans) are accomplished by the use of product demarketing and deselection. Kotler and Levy (1971) define the concept of demarketing as “that aspect of marketing that deals with discouraging customers in general or a certain class of customer in particular on either a temporary or permanent basis” (p. 75). Product deselection is a campaign of misinformation and junk science for the sole purpose of discouraging product demand (Hall, 2011). Product demarketing and deselection are tied to the notions of pollution prevention, the substitution principle and the precautionary principle. These two advocate tools will be explored in a future posting. Common ideas among these three concepts are vagueness of definition, non-science based and are prone to abuse by advocates and politicians.
Who are members of this group and what is their role?
This project group is made up of several organizational groups including:
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
MPCA act as administrator for the Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project. On September 12, 2013 MPCA is awarded a grant from EPA Region 5 Great Lakes National Program (Great Lake Restoration Initiative) in the amount of $207,000 for the project title: “Reduction of PAH releases from CTS” (Grant #00E00814-3)(U.S. EPA-Greal Lakes Retoration Initative 2012). It should be noted that various environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO) was also involved by way of grants provided by MPCA. Project activity includes:
●Approach manufacturers, suppliers and retailers (Al Innes, 2013a);
●Track phase-outs(Al Innes, 2013a);
●“Experts” support preservation role and performance of alternative (Al Innes, 2013a);
●Outreach to property owners and managers (Al Innes, 2013a) and;
●Applicator/supplier no-CTS pledge(Al Innes, 2013a).
The MPCA also engages in product demarketing and deselection. Referring to the MPCA web page titled “moving to safer alternatives to coal tar sealcoats”, this page nothing but product demarketing and deselection campaign (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2013b). In addition, MPCA uses selective information in this campaign in that MPCA only used information that help support their claims. One assumes that since MPCA touts itself as a science-based organization and that evidence-based investigates hold the key to the true. The person using that assumption is wrong and MPCA utilizes selective and citation bias to help support their argument.
US EPA (US EPA)
Supplied grants to MPCA and University of Wisconsin Extension Cooperative under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Program(U.S. EPA-Greal Lakes Retoration Initative 2012; U.S. EPA-Pollution Prevention, 2013). According to grant documentation, these grants we issued by EPA knowing they were for the purpose of product demarketing and deselection. Other than providing funding to MPCA and UW SHWEC with grants, it is unclear what EPA’s role is within the Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project.
University of Wisconsin-Extension Cooperative Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center (UW SHWEC)
On April 22, 2013 The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was awarded a grant from EPA Region 5 Great Lakes National program (EPA Great Lake Restoration Initiative) in the amount of $101,156 for the program titled “Pollution prevention grant program” which will help businesses go green by reduce the use of CTS and more green sealants (Grant #00E01053-1)(U.S. EPA-Pollution Prevention, 2013).
There are many examples of demarketing coal tar based pavement sealer by UW SHWEC. What make this demarketing even more severe (considering this is an academic institution) is that SHWEC was selectively utilizing the studies that gave the largest negative impact. Since these were produced in an academic setting, this would be an example of citation and selection biases (Liebl, 2012; University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center, 2012a, 2012b, 2012c). In no way was SHWEC utilizing the body of literature that shows that disproves theories advanced by USGS, MPCA and others.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MI DEQ)-Pollution Prevention Program
MI DEQ’s role within the group is unknown at this point. MI DEQ does have a pollution protection program.
Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR)
This organization is an environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO) that “is dedicated to promote information exchange and networking to pollution prevention (P2) professionals in the Great Lakes Region of the United States and Canada” (Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable, n.d.-a). The organization states that “GLRPPR is your link to quality pollution prevention information, research, and expertise. GLRPPR has assisted thousands of industries, organizations, small businesses, and citizens within the Great Lakes Region to locate quality information and resources about compliance and pollution prevention. GLRPPR and its members are working together to make a cleaner tomorrow for the Great Lakes Region”(Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable, n.d.-a). Member organizations include MPCA, University of Wisconsin SHWEC, U.S. EPA and MI DEQ(Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable, n.d.-b). Specific members shown are Al Innes from MPCA and Dave Liebl from University of Wisconsin SHWEC(Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable, n.d.-b).
The sole purpose of Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project is to engage in product demarketing and deselection which will damage the market of coal tar based pavement sealer. We have observed that there are many examples of these two activities occurring. Al Innes from MPCA even stated these actions are to “phase-out” (ban) this product(Al Innes, 2013b; Al Innes, 2013). It ironic when a NGO or government entity states that they wish to help business. Why then, are their action the opposite of what they stated?
Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project. (n.d.). PAH Reduction through Phase-Out of Coal Tar-Based Pavement Sealcoats. from https://sites.google.com/site/greatlakespahreduction/home
Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. (n.d.-a). About GLRPPR. from http://glrppr.org/aboutus/glrppr_brochure.pdf
Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. (n.d.-b). GLRPPR members. from http://glrppr.org/memberlist/
Hall, B. (2011). Defending against product de-selection attacks-Where do we stand? Paper presented at the SPI’s Flexibile Vinyl Products 22nd Annual Conference, Bulington, VT. http://spi.files.cms-plus.com/about/VPD/Tuesday%207.%20Bill%20Hall-%20Venable%20%3D%20Defending%20Against%20Unwarranted%20Product%20De-Selection%20Attacks.pdf
Innes, A. (2013a, October 29, ). Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project Webinar 1: Overview of Issues. from https://sites.google.com/site/greatlakespahreduction/home/fall-2013-webinar-materials
Innes, A. (2013b, November 20,). Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project Webinar 2: State/Provincial Programs. from https://sites.google.com/site/greatlakespahreduction/home/fall-2013-webinar-materials
Innes, A. (2013). Webinar 1: Overview of Issues. Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project. from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxncmVhdGxha2VzcGFocmVkdWN0aW9ufGd4OjEwZWQzNmU5OGU5Y2Y1YzI
Liebl, D. (2012). Toxic Driveway Sealants=Public Health Hazard. from http://fyi.uwex.edu/shwec/2012/07/09/toxic-driveway-sealants-public-health-hazard/
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. (2013a). Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project. from http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/water/water-types-and-programs/stormwater/stormwater-management/great-lakes-coal-tar-sealcoat-pah-reduction-project/index.html
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. (2013b). Moving to safer alternatives to coal tar sealcoats. from http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/water/water-types-and-programs/stormwater/stormwater-management/moving-to-safer-alternatives-to-coal-tar-sealcoats.html
U.S. EPA-Greal Lakes Retoration Initative (2012). 2011 grants. from http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/glri/2011grants.html
U.S. EPA-Pollution Prevention. (2013). Fiscal year 2012 pollution prevention grant summaries. from http://www.epa.gov/p2/pubs/grants/ppis/p2sum2012.html
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. (2012a). Beware of toxic driveway sealants. from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxncmVhdGxha2VzcGFocmVkdWN0aW9ufGd4OjVhZWMyNjIzMDdmMzNjYTg
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. (2012b). Coal Tar-Based Asphalt Sealcoats-A Health and Environmental Hazard. from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxncmVhdGxha2VzcGFocmVkdWN0aW9ufGd4Ojc1MzEwNDE5ZjRmMDRkY2U
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. (2012c). Identifying Coal Tar Based Asphalt Sealcoats-A Guide for Applicators. from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxncmVhdGxha2VzcGFocmVkdWN0aW9ufGd4OjFjMmJlMWJkZDk5MTlhNGY
Note who is a super helper with this article: Thomas Ennis / Coal Tar Free America (photo credit).
David Liebl, outreach education specialist with UW-Extension’s Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center, says many companies that use the product have cut back, but continue to offer it because customers demand it.
“It’s a combination of aesthetics and the perception that the coal tar sealcoats are more durable, which in past years probably was true, but the asphalt emulsion alternatives have been dramatically improved in the last decade or so,” says Liebl.
Notice not better but improved. Please go back to being a nice activist Dr. Liebl.