It’s the classic story of racial bigotry in the Deep South. Of evil corporations polluting at will. Of one person willing to stand up for the oppressed and being railroaded by a conspiracy among big corporations and big government. Of a person being jailed over allegedly lying about a $150 water test while CEOs, politicians and presidential candidates suffer no consequences for far more egregious offenses.
This is exactly the type of reporting I approach with immense skepticism.
In my career, I’ve only experienced a corporate world diametrically at opposite with the one portrayed here. I only worked for responsible corporations. We went far beyond environmental requirements. We even cleaned up other company’s messes because it was the right thing to do.
At those companies, the state environmental agencies and the EPA were all over us like a wet blanket and rightfully so. I can’t imagine that the government agents I worked with would willfully ignore pollution. The events described in the article seem like something that had to have taken place in the 1950s. Long before the Clean Water Act.
To my mind, the whole concept of Tennie White being jailed as part of a conspiracy seemed preposterous.
That’s why I encourage each of you to read this article and decide for yourself.
I happened to have spent most of my time in that area of Mississippi during the period chronicled in the article. As soon as I began reading the history of the situation, my suspicion of the EPA peaked. I remembered how uncomfortable locals would get when I’d comment on clear violations. Storm ditches leading from businesses aren’t supposed to have swirls of oil on top of the water.
However, my confidence based on my experiences with the EPA elsewhere lured me into making excuses in my mind. I just assumed that the EPA was still fighting it out in court.
Please, don’t misunderstand. White has apparently engaged in inappropriate conduct. She lied about having a college degree on at least a couple of documented occasions. She may very well have lied about performing a $150 water test.
Does that warrant the EPA cops turning up on her door and imprisoning her? No.
The bottom line is that the EPA wasted resources on White that should have been directed to cleaning up the obvious issues. EPA officials should have been fired for failing to perform the essential functions of their positions. Instead, our government chose to try to strike fear into every member of profession that dared challenge it.
Sadly, all they succeeded in doing was eroding my esteem for a government agency I was sure was excelling at its job.
Author: Chris Semones, CEO, Expert Witness Network.