Judge Slams Ex-EPA Chief Over Sept. 11
By Larry Neumeister, Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK – A federal judge blasted former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman on Thursday for reassuring New Yorkers soon after the Sept. 11 attacks that it was safe to return to their homes and offices while toxic dust was polluting the neighborhood.
U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts refused to grant Whitman immunity against a class-action lawsuit brought in 2004 by residents, students and workers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn who said they were exposed to hazardous materials from the collapse of the World Trade Center.
“No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws,” the judge said.
She called Whitman’s actions “conscience-shocking,” saying the EPA chief knew that the fall of the twin towers released tons of hazardous materials into the air. A call to a spokeswoman for Whitman was not immediately returned.
The judge let the lawsuit proceed against the EPA and Whitman, permitting the plaintiffs to try to prove that the agency and its administrator endangered their health. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and reimbursement for cleanup costs and asks the court to order that a medical monitoring fund be set up to track the health of those exposed to trade center dust.
In her ruling, Batts noted that the EPA and Whitman said repeatedly — beginning just two days after the attack — that the air appeared safe to breathe. The EPA’s internal watchdog later found that the agency, at the urging of White House officials, gave misleading assurances.
Quoting a ruling in an earlier case, the judge said a public official cannot be held personally liable for putting the public in harm’s way unless the conduct was so egregious as “to shock the contemporary conscience.” Given her role in protecting the health and environment for Americans, Whitman’s reassurances after Sept. 11 were “without question conscience-shocking,” Batts said.
It was not surprising to learn that the former EPA Chief recently refused to testify before a congressional subcommittee on post-9/11 air quality. But, I sure did get a kick out of Congressional Chairman Nadler’s response:
It is my fervent hope that the former EPA employees, and in particular Ms. Whitman, will willingly cooperate with the Subcommittee’s inquiry. And moreover, I would strongly urge the Administration to encourage her appearance, given her absolutely central role in these matters, so that the American people may finally hear her direct answers to lingering, unanswered questions about the federal government’s failed response to the environmental aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. That is the only way to get to the truth and do right by the heroes and victims of 9/11. And it is the only way we can ensure that our federal government is prepared to protect the health and safety of Americans should, G-d forbid, anything like this happen again in the future.
The real surprise came a mere three days later, when in a turnaround, Whitman agreed to testify at the house inquiry. It will actually mark her First-Ever Congressional Appearance on a Hearing Dedicated Solely to EPA’s Response to the NYC WTC Attacks. I am just embarrassed for all the heroes and victims of 9/11 that such an inquiry took so many years to come about. I guess that is what happens when ‘Big Brother’ feels his actions are unassailable.
It is what we DON’T yet know about the long-term effects of the air quality at the World Trade Center site that is so frightening. So many put their lives on the line and are now suffering lingering illnesses. And, many of our beloved dogs worked the site, in both disaster and therapy roles. This environmental issue is especially significant given my own history. Let me explain. . . . . .
Many folks ask how I have been able to create and run this huge Land of PureGold site. Well, I’ve been at it since 1997, but the main reason is that I am on a disability retirement and only do very limited private practice and school psychology consultant work now, although I used to work fulltime as a school psychologist in a public system, teach graduate school, and work extensively in private practice. In the Harford County Public School System in Maryland, I worked in a small, non-ventilated, non-windowed office at Edgewood Middle School for eight years. It was consumed by mold and despite continual complaints, nothing was done.
My secretary and fellow psychologists suffered from respiratory problems constantly, and my secretary and I both had unexplained, spontaneous nose bleeds as well. My health deteriorated to the point that I was unable to drive to work without falling asleep at the wheel. I now suffer from a multitude of disorders (mixed connective tissue disease, extreme environmental allergies, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome) and remain at home a good deal of the time.
By the way, that office I worked in. Well, after I went out on disability and the problems increased, the parents started complaining due to their children having increased breathing problems and asthma attacks. And, guess what? The school was closed and major abatement needed to be done with those men in the protective suits having to clean up the contamination. And, where was the worst concentration found? Yup, my office. That’s where the STACHYBOTRYS MOLD, plus others, was highest. Stachybotrys is that mold that has been featured on numerous news magazine shows, as it usually sends folks running from homes, and then needing to rebuild as their old homes cannot be salvaged.
Because my own health problems and disability are a function of air quality issues, I have had a particular interest in the health of the responders at Ground Zero. In fact, I have cataloged hundreds of pivotal articles related to this issue since October 2001.
As five years have now gone by since the attacks, we
have now begun to get a picture of how dangerous Big Brother can be when ‘he’ decides what it is we should and should not be told. The ramifications are far-reaching, especially given the following news video detailing a study about the effect of the damage on babies exposed to the toxins in utero.
Watch it please.
Toxins From 9/11 May Have Caused Developmental Problems In Children