Elmira Independent Editorial
Here’s a few words of advice to members of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, as well as representatives of Chemtura.
It’s time to grow up.
At this week’s CPAC meeting, it was clear both sides were smarting from a December confrontation, in which CPAC chairman revealed, somewhat prematurely, the results of Chemtura’s current verification process with Responsible Care, an industry-recognized standard that holds chemical companies accountable to their communities.
Chemtura responded by publicly criticizing Holt, suggesting that his breach of confidentiality was unprofessional.
It’s a dispute where it is unlikely for this newspaper to ever find out what actually happened, and what Holt was allowed or not allowed to reveal.
However, this is what we can conclude.
Holt wasn’t fully informed of all the ins and outs of the verification process. It is possible that he did not realize it was inappropriate and premature to reveal this information. We will give him the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, Chemtura was clearly within its rights to dispute Holt’s account, using a public forum — just as Holt did — to tell its side of the story.
The time to let it go was then. Both sides could chalk it up to poor communication and more than a share of mistrust, and recognize this is a clear area for improvement — something that is actually meant to be part of the verification process.
In short, they need to get over it.
Instead, the dispute returned at Monday’s CPAC meeting, with CPAC members — including CPAC chairman Dan Holt, who was supposed to be moderating the meeting — spending a great deal of time chasing rabbit trails like this one, expressing outrage on Holt’s behalf for Chemtura’s public criticism at the December council meeting.
A great deal of time was also spent on the subject of former CPAC chairman Pat McLean’s membership on the verification team, a subject that has no actual bearing on the results of the verification process.
That is because, under Responsible Care, community members simply need to be part of the verification team. It makes sense that McLean, who formerly sat on CPAC, and is also involved in the APT Environment group, would become part of the team. APT and CPAC were both asked to participate, and there’s nothing wrong with having more community members participate than the minimum.
And, given the fact that the verification team is expected to reach an unanimous conclusion, McLean’s membership on the committee is unlikely to make a difference, one way or another.
This week’s CPAC meeting truly highlighted something that every member — and every Chemtura representative, not to mention Ministry of the Environment representatives (who were not in attendance at this week’s meeting) — needs to grasp.
We understand that you don’t like, and don’t trust each other.
We understand that the current CPAC, fueled by concerns raised by local environmentalist Alan Marshall, doesn’t trust former CPAC members, or their relationship with Chemtura.
We understand that the historical relationship between Chemtura (or Uniroyal, or Crompton, Chemtura’s former names) has been a rocky one, one filled with distrust and obfuscation.
We even get that both sides were offended by the back-and-forth dispute that took place in December.
We get all that.
But here’s the thing.
While CPAC members spend an inordinate amount of time expressing their outrage on subjects such as Chemtura’s so-called “undermining” of CPAC chairman Dan Holt, or the fact that former CPAC chairman Pat McLean is also a member of the verification team, very little important business is accomplished.
At this week’s CPAC meeting, only a few intelligent questions were raised about Chemtura’s recent excavation of buried waste drums on its site, or the results of the MOE’s downstream monitoring of the Canagagigue, which took place late last year.
Those questions, in fact, were asked by former chairman Pat McLean, which, we think, makes our point.
We hope and trust the committee, and Chemtura representatives will put this disagreement behind them, and return to constructive work at next month’s meeting.