ProPublica last week published an examination of how Republican Rep. David Vitter of Louisiana stalled an EPA assessment that would declare formaldehyde as a known carcinogen. Given the ailments Louisianans suffered from formaldehyde-contaminated FEMA trailers after Katrina, the Republican's move is particularly vile. But ProPublica's report revealed Vitter wasn't alone: Three Democrats — including Rep. Mike Ross — were also working to block the EPA move.
The EPA has been conducting studies on the chemical — linked to leukemia and other cancers — since 1987. The agency is trying to develop safety and pollution control regulations that address formaldehyde's toxicity, which has been recognized by other scientific organizations.
“We recognize that you may be concerned about further delay in EPA's assessment of this chemical,” Ross wrote in an October 2009 letter to the EPA, “but we are convinced that it is vitally important that a risk assessment be thorough and accurate.”
Not surprisingly, Ross's FEC filings for 2009 show that he received more than $14,000 in contributions from companies that use or manufacture significant amounts of the chemical: $9,000 from Koch Industries, $1,500 from Monsanto, $1,000 from Exxon, $1,000 from Plum Creek Timber and $2,000 from the American Forest and Paper Association.
When asked if industry contributions influenced his position on when and how the EPA regulates formaldehyde, Ross said,
“The only people I answer to are those who call Arkansas's Fourth Congressional District home and that's who I represent in our nation's capital — not a political party or special interests. Any accusation to the contrary is misguided. I believe my record as a common sense voice for Arkansas is clear and I stand by that record.”
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality lists formaldehyde as a colorless, pungent and irritating gas and a pollutant in air permit applications.
Loose ends concerning the move of Mike and Janet Huckabee to Florida:
The former first lady once had a high-profile job with the American Red Cross. No more, we learned. Brigette Williams, a spokesperson for the Red Cross, said, “She worked for the national organization, not the local chapter, and was very involved. She resigned in May of 2009 for personal reasons. She had to prioritize her family.”
After he left office and became a presidential candidate, the former governor maintained an office for a time in the Union Plaza building at 124 W. Capitol Ave. The building's management says he moved out months ago.