Judiciary Hearing on Post-9/11 Air Quality Issues

Posted on by Jesse Lee

The Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is currently holding a hearing, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Response to Air Quality Issues Arising from the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001: Were There Substantive Due Process Violations?” Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman will testify, amongst others.

Watch the hearing live via committee webcast or on C Span 3.

Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who represents a district in New York City, gives opening remarks:

Chairman Nadler:
“Our government knowingly exposed thousands of Americans unnecessarily to deadly hazardous materials, and because it has never admitted the truth Americans remain at grave risk to this day. Thousands of first responders, residents, area workers and students are sick, and some are dead. The toll will continue to grow until we get the truth and take appropriate action. Those false statements continue to the present. Administrator Whitman has said there has never been a subsequent study to disprove what agency scientists told us all along. She omits to note that what agency scientists and others told her was very, very different from what the EPA communicated to the public.”

Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY-09), also of New York City, gives opening remarks:

Rep. Weiner:
“Now is the time to accept responsibility, so that the people who were harmed by those statements, harmed by those misjudgments, harmed by that mismanagement, can finally bring some closure on the past and bring some opening on true health care for them and their families.”

Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler questions Whitman:

Chairman Nadler:
“Were you aware that Dr. Kilbourne had warned that EPA wasn’t asking about lots of toxic hazards, and that he said that the EPA sampling data was scanty and should not to be relied upon for safety purposes?”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-08) questions Whitman on the EPA Inspector General’s report:

Rep. Pascrell:
“You said there was no conspiracy, you said there was no White House interference. Yet, let me simply repeat what your own IG stated – your own. Quote: ‘The White House Council on Environmental Quality influenced the information the EPA communicated to the public through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones.’ Tables 2-4 and Table 2-5 in the IG’s report is very clear on that. In a letter that we sent in 2003 and another letter we sent in 2006 to the Attorney General – we never got, really, a response on that, I don’t remember a response, do you? – the associate administrator Kreischer told the IG there was a ‘conscious effort,’ quote-unquote, to reassure people, and that came from the Administrator and the White House. She told the IG that, quote, she ‘felt extreme pressure from the White House.’ Now you’re stating today, again, that there was no extreme pressure from the White House, Governor Whitman, is that correct?”

In a second round of questioning, Rep. Pascrell questions Suzanne Y. Mattei, Former New York City Executive of the Sierra Club and author of a book on this subject, about some of the claims of EPA officials, particularly the claim that it was dangerous “on the pile” but safe “off the pile”:

“This on-the-pile versus off-the-pile thing is a little bit of nonsense, there was no glass bubble over Ground Zero, the air blew that stuff into the surroudning community, and while there may have been some dilusion there were a lot of toxic chemicals for which there’s no safe level of exposure. And the nonsense about, well, the high levels were in the dust, not in the air, that’s just out of touch with reality. People coming back to their homes, people coming back to their work sites — there was dust. And what did people do, they cleaned up the dust.”
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