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Profile: Environmental Protection Agency

 
  

Positions that Environmental Protection Agency has held:



 

Quotes

 
  

Quote, October 3, 2001

   “The samples are evaluated against a variety of benchmarks, standards and guidelines established to protect public health under various conditions. ... EPA analyzed 34 samples taken in and around Ground Zero from October 8 to October 9. All samples showed results less than 70 structures per millimeter squared, which is the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) standard for allowing children to re-enter school buildings after asbestos removal activities.” [EPA, 10/03/2001]

Associated Events

Quote, March, 2 2004

   “In evaluating data from the World Trade Center and the surrounding areas, EPA is using a protective standard under AHERA, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, to evaluate the risk from asbestos in the outdoor and indoor air. This is a very stringent standard that is used to determine whether children may re-enter a school building after asbestos has been removed or abated. It is based on assumptions of long-term exposure. EPA has chosen to use this standard, because it is the most stringent and protective, even though it is unlikely that the public will be exposed to asbestos from the World Trade Center site for extended periods of time. To determine asbestos levels, air filters are collected from monitoring equipment through which air in the school building has passed and viewed through a microscope. The number of structures—material that has asbestos fibers on or in it—is then counted. The measurements must be 70 or fewer structures per square millimeter before children are allowed inside.” [EPA, 3/1/2004]

Associated Events


 

Relations

 
  

Related Entities:


 

Environmental Protection Agency actively participated in the following events:

 
  

November 24, 1984      Environmental Impact

       The EPA establishes the National Office of the Ombudsman under the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The amendment says the function of the new office is “to receive individual complaints, grievances, and problems submitted by any person with respect to any program or requirement under the RCRA.” The Ombudsman has the authority to decide which complaints to investigate, conduct an independent investigation of a complaint, assist the person or group that makes the complaint, and make non-binding recommendations to the EPA based on the ombudsman's findings. [US Senate, 6/25/2002; GAO, 2001 Sources: National Ombudsman for Hazardous and Solid Waste]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

September 1989      Environmental Impact

       The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues its Interim Asbestos NESHAP Enforcement Guidance on “Friable Asbestos,” which clarifies the definition and acceptable use of “asbestos-containing” materials. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), issued in 1973, defined “asbestos-containing materials,” or ACMs, as products that contain more than 1 percent asbestos by weight. Citing the original document, the guidance explains that NESHAP's purpose was to “ban the use of materials which contain significant quantities of asbestos, but to allow the use of materials which would (1) contain trace amounts of asbestos that occur in numerous natural substances, and (2) include very small quantities of asbestos (less than 1 percent) added to enhance the material's effectiveness.” However, the guidance stresses, the “EPA NESHAP definition of 1 percent by weight was not established to be a health-based standard.” [Sources: EPA 560/5-88-011, 9/1989]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

December 1990      Environmental Impact

       The EPA issues a pamphlet answering common questions on the Asbestos NESHAP regulations (see September 1989). One question asks: “Is there a numeric emission limit for the release of asbestos fibers during renovations or demolitions in the asbestos NESHAP regulation?” The EPA answers that although there is no numeric emission limit, NESHAP “does specify zero visible emissions to the outside air from activity relating to the transport and disposal of asbestos waste.” In other words, if any emissions are visible during transport or disposal, the level of asbestos is unsafe. [Sources: EPA, questions and answers on Neshap, 12/1990]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

1991      Environmental Impact

       Following the expiration of Congressional authorization (see September 30, 1988) for the ombudsman office, the EPA decides to continue the program and expand the office's jurisdiction to include similar functions within the Superfund division. [US Senate, 6/25/2002]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

October 18, 1992      Environmental Impact

       The EPA hires Robert J. Martin as the agency's National Ombudsman (see November 24, 1984). [US Senate, 6/25/2002]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Robert J. Martin
          

1994      Environmental Impact

       The EPA explains in a document setting guidelines for the decontamination of demolition sites that the “site must be cleaned up to background levels of asbestos contamination.” (The term, “background level” refers to the typical asbestos level of non-contaminated soil in that area.) The EPA adds that in order to “clean up the site to background levels, it will probably be necessary to remove all the asbestos contaminated soil. The contaminated soil should be treated and disposed of as asbestos-containing waste material.” [EPA, 1994 cited in Jenkins, 3/11/2002]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

August 1, 1994      Environmental Impact

       The EPA issues an advisory specifying the methodology that should be used to test for asbestos in air samples under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). The guidance recommends that transmission electron microscopy (TEM) be used rather than the older, less sensitive polarized light microscopy (PLM) method, which cannot detect ultrafine fibers below .25 micrometers. The advisory also states that when a PLM test is negative for asbestos, the sample should be retested using the TEM method. [Sources: Federal Register, 59 FR 38970, 8/1/1994]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

January 1995      Environmental Impact

       The EPA designates 232 homes and businesses in Lorain County, Ohio as Superfund sites. The buildings had been illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion by an exterminator. [Disease Prevention News, 5/28/1998] The cleanup is performed by the EPA in collaboration with other federal agencies. “Many of the homes had to have wallboard, carpeting, and baseboards removed when repeated surface cleaning failed to remove trace amounts of methyl parathion,” a report in Environmental Health Perspectives explains. “Residents had to be temporarily relocated, personal items replaced, and transportation to schools and workplaces provided.” [Environmental Health Perspectives, 12/2002] The cleanup cost taxpayers more than $20 million. [Disease Prevention News, 5/28/1998]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

November 1996      Environmental Impact

       The EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) discover more than 1,100 homes in Jackson County, Mississippi that were sprayed with methyl parathion illegally by Reuben Brown, an unlicensed exterminator. The EPA designates the homes as Superfund sites and oversees a $50 million cleanup. More than 1,600 people will be relocated during the cleanup. [Environmental Health Perspectives, 12/2002; Disease Prevention News, 5/28/1998; Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Reuben Brown, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Environmental Protection Agency
          

April 1997      Environmental Impact

       The EPA designates more than 98 homes in the Chicago area as a Superfund site. The homes had been illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion by Reuben Brown, an unlicensed exterminator. The homes are decontaminated at a cost of around $7.5 million. [Environmental Health Perspectives, 12/2002; Disease Prevention News, 5/28/1998; Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Reuben Brown, Environmental Protection Agency
          

November 21, 1999      Environmental Impact

       Three days after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on asbestos contamination of homes in Libby, Montana (see November 18, 1999), the EPA dispatches an emergency response team to conduct tests to determine the level of asbestos contamination. For decades, local, state and federal agencies had ignored the known hazards at the Libby mine. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/2/2000; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/15/2000] Twenty-three of the 73 outdoor air samples the EPA team will take at various locations in Libby are found to contain elevated levels of tremolite—a type of asbestos that is extremely carcinogenic due to its needle-like and sharply pointed fibers which easily penetrate the lining of the lungs. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/2/2000] Random air sampling inside the homes of Libby residents reveals that 11 to 23 percent of the selected homes have detectable levels of asbestos. The average level of asbestos inside Libby homes is found to be 0.0024 fibers per milliliter (f/mL), which exceeds many times the EPA cancer risk level of 0.000004 f/mL. [Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

May 2000      Environmental Impact

       The EPA issues a publication which states that in the event of a terrorist attack causing the release of hazardous substances, the EPA would respond under the authority of the NCP (see 1972). “The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has statutory authorities and responsibilities to prepare for and respond to emergencies involving oil and hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants, which include chemical, biological and radiological materials that could also be components of a weapon of mass destruction (WMD).... EPA carries out its preparedness and response efforts primarily under the mandate of the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) and the Radiological Response Program.” [Sources: EPA publication, May 2000]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

January 3, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The EPA publishes a “Draft Guidance for the National Hazardous Waste Ombudsman and the Regional Superfund Ombudsmen Program,” which attempts to “clarify” the National Ombudsman's function. [US Senate, 6/25/2002 Sources: Federal Register, Vol 66, No. 2, 1/3/2001] The current ombudsman, Robert Martin, argues that the guidelines are actually designed to limit the scope of the ombudsman's authority, by placing the office under the authority of the head of Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), an EPA division the ombudsman may investigate. [The Washington Post, 11/29/2001]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Robert J. Martin
          

June 18, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The EPA posts a “questions and answers” page about asbestos and the EPA's Libby investigation (see November 21, 1999) on its website. It includes only one question: “I recently read that EPA found less than 1 percent (or trace levels) asbestos at Fireman's Park and other locations that were sampled. Is that a safe level?” The EPA responds that levels of “1 percent or less may be safe” under certain circumstances, but notes that it “could present a risk where there is enough activity to stir up soil and cause asbestos fibers to become airborne” (see 1995). [EPA FAQ, 6/18/2001]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

(August 2001)      Environmental Impact

       The EPA begins removing asbestos from private homes in Libby, Montana where a nearby mining operation contaminated the surrounding area (see November 21, 1999). The EPA conducts the cleanup operation under the authority of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see 1972). [Jenkins, 12/3/2001; Jenkins, 1/11/2002; Kupferman, 2003; EPA, n.d.] In some cases, it will be necessary for the EPA to take extreme measures to ensure that asbestos levels in certain homes meet EPA standards. For example, the agency will have to completely demolish one home and rebuild it after the standard procedures of replacing carpets, upholstered furniture, and professional abatement fail to reduce the presence of asbestos to an acceptable level. [Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

(Afternoon September 11, 2001)-July 18, 2002      Environmental Impact

       The EPA sets up more than 30 fixed air-quality monitors in and around Ground Zero as well as regional monitors in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island to test for the presence of certain contaminants. [Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.; Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.] More than 30 such air monitors are also positioned at various locations in the Staten Island Landfill, where the WTC debris will be taken. [Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.] Additionally, both the EPA and OSHA operate portable sampling equipment to collect data from a variety of other surrounding locations. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/18/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.; Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.] The equipment, however, does not test the air for fiberglass, a common building material and a known carcinogen [Occupational Hazards, 1/25/02] , or mercury in airborne dusts (although they do test for mercury in its vapor state). [Jenkins, 7/4/2003] Critics will argue that monitoring outdoor air is insufficient since it will ultimately be diluted because of wind and diffusion—unlike indoor air, which clings to fabrics and is trapped within walls. [International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, 1/21/02] Aside from a few exceptions (see September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001), the EPA will use the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method for counting asbestos fibers instead of electron microscope technology (see September 12, 2001) which provides far more accurate results. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/28/01]
People and organizations involved: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

(Between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001)      Environmental Impact

       A dust sample is taken by EPA employees as they flee the collapsing buildings. The samples are later tested and found to contain an asbestos level of 4.5 percent. [Newsweek, 9/14/2001; Minnesota Start Tribune, 9/14/2001]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

September 12, 2001      Environmental Impact

       Tina Kreisher, a spokeswoman for the EPA, says, “At the moment, we really don't detect any real danger.” [ABC News, 9/13/2001; Healthline News, 9/15/2001]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Tina Kreisher
          

September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001      Environmental Impact

       EPA Region 2 hires an industrial hygienist to test the lobby of its building at 290 Broadway St. for the presence of asbestos. The building is located 6 blocks northeast of the World Trade Center site. Some of the settled dust samples collected with a micro-vac and analyzed using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) reveal the presence of chrysotile asbestos. Light microscope tests are also used to analyze the dust, but these tests turn up negative. [Kupferman, 2003; Jenkins, 3/11/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003] Air monitoring also reveals the presence of asbestos:
20 s/mm [Jenkins, 7/15/2004]
20 s/mm [Jenkins, 7/15/2004]
60 s/mm [Jenkins, 7/15/2004]
60 s/mm [Jenkins, 7/15/2004] The discovery of asbestos at the building prompts EPA Region 2 to have the building professionally abated. [Kupferman, 2003; Jenkins, 3/11/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003] The EPA later states that micro-vac collection of dust samples (one of the preferred methods of obtaining samples) and TEM testing are not necessary for schools and residences in Lower Manhattan. At 105 Duane Street, the EPA will even discount results obtained by micro-vac collection and TEM tests when they contradict the agency's own results (see December 3, 2001). [The Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002; Kupferman, 2003; Nadler, 3/18/02; Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

September 14, 2001      Environmental Impact

       EPA spokeswoman Bonnie Bellow says, “There's nothing at this point that indicates that business can't resume” in the Wall Street area on Monday as scheduled. [Newsday, 9/15/2001; Newsday, 9/15/2001 cited in Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bonnie Bellow
          

September 15, 2001      Environmental Impact

       EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman says with regard to Manhattan's air quality, “[T]here is no reason for concern.” She says that her agency is regularly sampling airborne particles and that findings indicate that most locations have an asbestos level of less than one percent—the amount above which the EPA considers a material to be “asbestos-containing” —but notes that the highest recorded reading so far was 4.5 percent (see September 12, 2001). [Newsday, 9/16/01] But the EPA is wrong to use the one percent level as if it were a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)). Furthermore, its test results are not accurate, as they are based on the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method which is incapable of identifying fine fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when it is present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990).
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman
          

September 16, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The EPA and OSHA release a joint statement asserting that the air in downtown New York City is safe to breathe. “[N]ew samples confirm previous reports that ambient air quality meets OSHA standards and consequently is not a cause for public concern,” the agencies claim. [EPA, 9/16/01] But it is later learned that the press release had been heavily edited under pressure from the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Critical passages in the original draft were either deleted or modified to downplay public health risks posed by contaminants that were released into the air during the collapse of the World Trade Center. [Newsday, 8/26/03; EPA Office of Inspector General, 8/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
          

September 18, 2001      Environmental Impact

       EPA air monitors detect sulfur dioxide levels that are so elevated that “according to one industrial hygienist, they exceeded the EPA's standard for a classification of ‘hazardous,’ ” the New York Daily News later reports. The EPA does not volunteer this information to the public. Rather the data is discovered in internal EPA documents that are obtained by the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project through the Freedom of Information Act in October (see October 19, 2001). [New York Daily News, 10/21/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project
          

September 20, 2001      Environmental Impact

       Business Week publishes a news report on the potential environmental and human health impact of the World Trade Center collapse. The report cites experts who challenge EPA claims that the air-quality of surrounding areas does not pose significant risks to public health. “[M]any scientists and public-health experts in New York, across the country, and in Europe counter that dust and toxic materials, not asbestos, may be the biggest threat and that the EPA's testing is, at best, inconclusive,” the magazine reports. Part of the problem lies in lax EPA pollution limits, which experts say “are often heavily influenced by industry” and consequently much too high— “especially in an event of such unprecedented magnitude that flooded the environment with so many contaminants simultaneously.” The report goes on to say that the experts are concerned that “everyone who was in the explosions' vicinity could have potentially suffered acute exposure from the dust and smoke and could be at risk for everything from near-term respiratory ailments to, over decades, cancer.” Richard Clapp, a professor at Boston University's School of Public Health, tells Business Week: “Even at low or barely detectable levels, that's a lot of asbestos fibers and other dangerous particles going into people's lungs. If those get lodged, they could do damage later on.” Temple University civil engineering professor William Miller notes that the trucks hauling debris away from the WTC are probably dispersing toxic debris “all over Lower Manhattan.” The article says the smallest dust particles, which are difficult to detect, are also the “most insidious” and are not filtered out by paper masks. [Business Week, 9/20/01] Yet the EPA had explicitly stated that people living and working in the area did not need to use respirators (see September 22, 2001).
People and organizations involved: Richard Clapp, Environmental Protection Agency, William Miller  Additional Info 
          

September 21, 2001      Environmental Impact

       EPA Administrator Christie Whitman assures New Yorkers that environmental conditions in Manhattan—both inside and outside—are safe, and provides a summary of the tests that have so far been performed on the city's air and drinking water.
Water - Whitman says: “As we continue to monitor drinking water in and around New York City, and as EPA gets more comprehensive analysis of this monitoring data, I am relieved to be able to reassure New York and New Jersey residents that a host of potential contaminants are either not detectable or are below the Agency's concern levels. Results we have just received on drinking water quality show that not only is asbestos not detectable, but also we can not detect any bacterial contamination, PCBs or pesticides.” She does say however that “following one rainstorm with particularly high runoff, we did have one isolated detection of slightly elevated levels of PCBs (see September 14, 2001).”
Outdoor air - Whitman says that outdoor air sampling does not indicate the existence of significant public health risks. This claim is based on results obtained using the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method (see September 12, 2001) which is incapable of identifying ultra-fine fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990). Even though Whitman denies a significant risk to public health, she does say “seven samples taken at or near Ground Zero have had marginally higher levels of asbestos that exceed EPA's level of concern,” and that her agency has “done a total of 101 dust samples, of which 37 were slightly over the one percent asbestos.” Whitman does not mention that the EPA's “level of concern” is not a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)) but rather the detection limit of the polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method (see November 20, 1990).
Indoor air - Whitman claims, “New Yorkers and New Jerseyans need not be concerned about environmental issues as they return to their homes and workplaces.” But the EPA has no data indicating that indoor air is actually safe. The only indoor tests that have been conducted by the EPA were in the EPA's Region 2 offices located in the Federal Building and a few neighboring buildings—and the results from several of these tests were positive for chrysotile asbestos (see September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001). [EPA, 9/21/01; Nadler, 3/18/2002]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman
          

September 22, 2001      Environmental Impact

       By this date, the EPA has set up approximately 15 wash stations for personnel and vehicles with signs posted instructing rescue workers to wear respirators and to take proper safety precautions. [EPA, 9/22/01]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

(September 23, 2001)      Environmental Impact

       EPA monitors detect elevated levels of benzene in the smoke plume from the WTC ruins that exceed OSHA's standard for an eight-hour exposure period. [EPA, 9/23/01]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

September 24, 2001      Environmental Impact

       An EPA press release summarizes the agency's response to the September 11 attacks under its authority pursuant the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see 1972) . [EPA, 9/24/2001]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

September 27, 2001      Environmental Impact

       After USGS scientists complete their analysis of the dust samples collected in New York City (see September 17, 2001-September 19, 2001-) —which found asbestos, an “alphabet soup of heavy metals,” and an extremely high pH level (see September 20, 2001) —the team emails the results to “all the government contacts the team had” including people at the EPA and FEMA, as well as to the federal emergency response coordinator. The EPA never informs the public of the dust's high pH. “We anticipated that the results would have been shared with the people on the ground, those at risk, but it looks like the information never got to those who needed it,” Geoffrey Plumlee, a geochemist, will later tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/02; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/02 (B)] Some scientists will suggest that the dust's high pH is a major cause of what will come to be known as the “WTC cough” (see September 9, 2002).
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, US Geological Service (USGS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  Additional Info 
          

October 2, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The EPA monitors record benzene levels at one location near Ground Zero that is 58 times higher than OSHA's permissible exposure limit. This is the highest benzene reading ever recorded at the WTC site. [New York Daily News, 10/21/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

October 3, 2001      Environmental Impact

       EPA Region 2 states in its daily monitoring notice: “The samples are evaluated against a variety of benchmarks, standards and guidelines established to protect public health under various conditions. ... EPA analyzed 34 samples taken in and around Ground Zero from October 8 to October 9. All samples showed results less than 70 structures per millimeter squared, which is the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) standard for allowing children to re-enter school buildings after asbestos removal activities.” [EPA, 10/03/2001] But the statement is a gross misinterpretation of AHERA (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004).
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

October 11, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The New York Daily News reports, “[EPA spokeswoman Bonnie] Bellow says none of the agency's tests for the presence of asbestos, radiation, mercury and other metals, pesticides, PCBs or bacteria have shown any evidence of any significant public health hazard.” [New York Daily News, 10/11/2001 cited in Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bonnie Bellow, Environmental Protection Agency
          

October 19, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project obtains internal EPA documents containing data that the agency did not include in the monitoring results it posted on its website on October 3 (see (October 3, 2001)). The documents, which include hundreds of pages of daily monitoring reports, reveal that “[d]ioxins, PCBs, benzene, lead and chromium are among the toxic substances detected in the air and soil around the WTC site by Environmental Protection Agency [monitoring] equipment—sometimes at levels far exceeding federal levels.” For example, one test indicated water being discharged into the Hudson River contained chromium, copper, lead and zinc at levels “elevated to several orders of magnitude above ambient water-quality criteria for most metals.” Also included is disturbing data about the air quality. “On numerous days, sulfur dioxide readings in the air at a half-dozen sites in Lower Manhattan have been far higher than the EPA's ambient air quality standards,” one document reveals. [New York Daily News, 10/21/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001; Associated Press, 10/27/2001; Kupferman, 2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project
          

(October 24, 2001)      Environmental Impact

       The City of New York posts test results for asbestos in ambient outdoor air using the polarized light microscopy (PLM) test method on the NYC Department of Environmental Protection website. [Jenkins, 7/15/2004] New York City DEP test results based on the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) testing method are not posted until early 2002 (see Early 2002).
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

November 13, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The Stuyvesant High School Parents' Association holds a meeting to address concerns about health and safety conditions at the school. People attending the meeting complain that the Board of Education has failed to address a number of issues. Other topics that are discussed at the meeting include symptoms of illness among the students, tests showing an elevated level of particulates, and evidence that information publicly disclosed by the EPA does not reveal the actual levels of contaminants around Ground Zero. [Stuyvesant High School Parents' Association, 11/13/01; New York Daily News, 12/20/2001]
People and organizations involved: Stuyvesant High School, Environmental Protection Agency
          

November 15, 2001      Environmental Impact

       Cate Jenkins, Ph.D., a senior chemist in the EPA's Hazardous Waste Identification Division, writes in a memo to Monona Rossol of the Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety (ACTS) organization that the EPA is ignoring federal asbestos-abatement laws in buildings close to the World Trade Center site. The 22-year veteran of the agency says that EPA officials “effectively waived” the EPA's “strict national regulations for removal and disposal of asbestos contaminated dust” by advising residents and commercial building managers in Lower Manhattan to follow the “extremely lenient (and arguably illegal) asbestos guidelines of the New York City Department of Health.” She notes that EPA testing discovered the presence of asbestos levels above the one percent “action level” in dust samples from at least 30 locations, some of which were located within five to seven blocks of Ground Zero. After the memo is reported in the New York Daily News, EPA officials will assert that Jenkins doesn't understand the law (see (November 19, 2001)). [New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 Sources: Cate Jenkins Memo to Monona Rossol]
People and organizations involved: Cate Jenkins, PhD., Monona Rossol, Environmental Protection Agency, New York City Department of Health
          

Early December, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The EPA outside air monitoring station at Stuyvesant High School records an asbestos level of 124 fibers per square millimeter, which significantly exceeds acceptable background levels. [New York Daily News, 12/20/2001]
People and organizations involved: Stuyvesant High School, Environmental Protection Agency
          

December 3, 2001      Environmental Impact

       After the New York City Department of Health tests Tribeca Tower at 105 Duane Street for asbestos and finds nothing, the building's residents contact Attorney Joel R Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project (NYELJP) for assistance. Certified industrial hygienist, Ed Olmstead, collects dusts samples for Kupferman using a micro-vac. Analysis is conducted using the highly sensitive transmission electron microscope (TEM) method. The tests results reveal high concentrations of asbestos. A sample taken from a hallway ventilation duct that circulates air throughout the building is found to contain 550,000 structures of asbestos per square centimeter. When confronted with these results, the EPA claims the hygienist's testing method was unsound and that the results were an aberration. The landlord of the building, citing EPA and DEP assurances that the test results could be ignored, refuses to appropriately abate the building. [Kupferman, 2003; Jenkins, 12/3/2001; Salon, 8/15/2003; The Washington Post, 1/8/2002]
People and organizations involved: The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Ed Olmstead, Environmental Protection Agency
          

Early January 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The court orders the EPA to come up with regulations governing formaldehyde emissions at wood products facilities by February 27, 2004 (see February 2004). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

January 10, 2002      Environmental Impact

       Nina Habib, an EPA spokeswoman, acknowledges that the thousands of asbestos tests performed by the EPA so far have been of outdoor air only. She asserts that the results from those tests were “indicative of what's in people's apartments as well.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Nina Habib
          

(January 13, 2002)      Environmental Impact

       Bonnie Bellow, spokeswoman for the EPA's region II office in New York tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the EPA is not responsible for testing homes and businesses. “That's not our job and we have no policies or procedures for doing that type of testing,” she claims. “We've never had to worry about asbestos in houses before.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/13/02; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2002] Bellow's statement is contradicted by the EPA's record and the agency's obligations under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see After November 1, 2001).
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bonnie Bellow
          

January 14, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       EPA staffers meet with the agency's top pollution regulator, Jeffrey Holmstead, in his fifth-floor conference room to discuss a February 2004 deadline for creating a rule governing formaldehyde emissions at wood products plants. Holmstead, a lawyer, formerly worked at Latham & Watkins representing one of the nation's largest plywood producers. Also present at the meeting is William Wehrum, the EPA air office's general counsel, who had also represented timber interests as a partner of the same law firm. They meet with Timothy Hunt, a lobbyist for the American Forest & Paper Association who is an old acquaintance of Holmstead, and with Claudia M. O'Brien, the association's lawyer. O'Brien had previously been a law partner of Holmstead's and Wehrum's at Latham & Watkins. During the meeting she proposes to exempt “low-risk” plywood, particleboard and other plants from strict emission controls, arguing that such facilities are often located in isolated areas where their emissions pose a relatively small risk to public health. She also contends that the expense of adding new controls to the plants, which the industry complains could cost as much as $1 billion, would make them vulnerable to foreign competition. Holmstead likes the idea and decides that the agency should push the proposal, despite opinions from EPA career attorneys that the exemption would violate the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments (see March 2003). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Jeffrey Holmstead, Timothy Hunt, Environmental Protection Agency, Claudia M. O'Brien, William Wehrum, Bush administration
          

(Early February 2002)      Environmental Impact

       EPA spokeswoman Bonnie Bellow states, “Based on our findings, and now really more than 10,000 samples of a wide range of substances, we have found no significant long-term risk posed by the outdoor air.” [USA Today, 2/7/2002; USA Today, 2/7/2002 cited in Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bonnie Bellow
          

February 23, 2002      Environmental Impact

       The EPA's National Ombudsman's office convenes a hearing on the environmental issues that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Center. Hugh Kaufman, the EPA ombudsman's chief investigator, remarks during the hearing that he believes the EPA, as well as state and city officials, have intentionally utilized inferior testing methods in order to avoid finding evidence that environmental conditions threaten public health. “I believe EPA did not do that because they knew it would come up not safe and so they are involved in providing knowingly false information to the public about safety,” Kaufman, says. “Not just EPA, the state and the city, too. We also had testimonies that all the agencies—local, state, and federal—have been consorting together every week to discuss these issues.” [CNN, 2/24/02] Numerous experts testify at the hearing, criticizing the EPA's response to the September 11 attacks, including David Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH); Dr. Thomas Cahill, of the University of California at Davis; Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, an adjunct professor at Lehman and Hunter College, City University of New York; Alison Johnson, Chairman of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, among others. Government officials and employees were invited to participate—including officials from the EPA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the US Geological Survey, the governor's office, state agencies, the mayor's office and city agencies—but did not appear. “This is the first time this has happened in this type of hearing,” Hugh Kaufman, tells United Press International. [Newsmax, 2/24/2002 Sources: Transcripts of EPA National Ombudsman Hearing on EPA response to WTC contamination, 2/21/2002]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Cahill, Cate Jenkins, PhD., Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, Hugh Kaufman, Jerrold Nadler, Environmental Protection Agency, Alison Johnson, US Geological Service (USGS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
          

April 6, 2002      Environmental Impact

       US District Judge Richard W. Roberts extends, by five days, a temporary restraining order (see January 11, 2002) against the EPA, prohibiting the agency from implementing plans (see Morning November 27, 2001) to transfer the function of the EPA's national ombudsman to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). [Associated Press, 4/8/2002]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Richard W. Roberts, EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG)
          

April 15, 2002-April 18, 2002      Environmental Impact

       Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project collects dust samples at 150 Franklin Street at the request of the building's tenants. He sends three samples to a lab which tests the dust for asbestos using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The lab finds asbestos levels of 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 percent. In September (see Shortly after September 17, 2001), the tenants had cleaned the building according to instructions provided by the city's health department (see September 17, 2001). The building's tenants—among them a family-run child care center—had relied on assurances from EPA and city officials that the downtown air was safe and consequently did not have the building professionally tested. After Kupferman notifies the city about these alarming results, the city tests the building using polarized light microscopy (PLM) on April 18 and does not find elevated asbestos levels. The city's samples are retested by the EPA using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and found to have an asbestos level ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent. “We recommended that [the building] be professionally cleaned,” EPA spokesperson Mary Mears later says. [The Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002; New York Daily News, 5/2/2002; Salon, 4/15/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Joel R Kupferman, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project
          

May 8, 2002      Environmental Impact

       The EPA's regional office in New York announces that the agency will assume responsibility for testing and cleaning residences south of Canal, Allen and Pike Streets in Manhattan for asbestos contamination—if requested by the resident. The EPA claims the decision was made in order to calm residents' fears, and that decontamination is not necessary. “While the scientific data about any immediate health risks from indoor air is very reassuring, people should not have to live with uncertainty about their futures,” says Jane Kenny, EPA regional administrator. “There is no emergency here.” [The Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002; New York Daily News, 5/9/2002 cited in Jenkins, 7/4/2003] Similarly, Mary Mears, spokeswoman for Region II of the EPA, states, “This is to assuage concerns from residents in Lower Manhattan who continue to have concerns over air in their apartments.” [United Press International, 5/9/2002]
Criticisms of the EPA's volunteer cleanup program -
The EPA does not include other areas like Brooklyn, which was in the direct path of the September 11 smoke plume (see September 12, 2001), or Chinatown, whose residents have also complained of ailments they attribute to WTC contamination. [New York Daily News, 5/20/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003]
The EPA does not acknowledge that there is a public health emergency
The program is voluntary.
The EPA program targets asbestos, although the agency will also randomly test for other toxins to determine if additional measures should be taken. “We will test for asbestos in air. This is the substance of greatest concern, and air is the pathway of exposure. By cleaning up the dust, many other substances will also be removed,” an EPA public notice explains. [EPA, n.d.] However according to Cate Jenkins, “too few homes [are sampled] to have any statistical power to establish that these substances are not occurring elsewhere.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003] A panel of experts convened by the EPA in October will agree, and suggest that the EPA conduct tests for additional toxins (see Mid-October 2002).
The program is limited to private residences. Office buildings, the common areas of apartment buildings, stores and restaurants are not eligible for the program. [Newsday, 10/29/2002]
Only apartments which appear upon visual inspection to be contaminated will qualify for cleaning. [Salon, 4/15/2003]
The plan does not require that all apartments in a building be evacuated and cleaned—just those whose residents have filed requests. Consequently, recontamination and cross-contamination will occur from ventilation systems connecting cleaned and uncleaned apartments and from dust tracked in on residents' shoes and clothing. [Salon, 4/15/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Jane Kenny, Mary Mears  Additional Info 
          

November 12, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The National Park Service (NPS) announces a plan to reverse a Clinton-era ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The NPS proposal would limit the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks per day to 1,100 by December 2003. However, beginning with the 2004-2005 winter season, there would be no restrictions on the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks. [Contra Costa Times, 11/10/2002; The Washington Post, 11/12/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The proposal is made despite the National Park Service having received some 360,000 emails and letters on the issue, eighty percent of which were in support of the ban. [Contra Costa Times, 11/10/2002] Lifting the ban on snowmobiles would have a considerable impact given that according to the EPA's own figures, the emissions from a single snowmobile can equal that of 100 automobiles. [National Park Service, 5/2000; Environmental Protection Agency, 2001; Blue Water Network, 1999] The EPA had recommended in 1999 that snowmobiles be barred from the two parks in order to provide the “best available protection” for air quality, wildlife and the health of people visiting and working in the park. After coming to office, the Bush administration ordered a review of the policy as part of a settlement with snowmobile manufacturers who had challenged the ban. [The Washington Post, 11/12/2002]
People and organizations involved: National Park Service (NPS), Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

November 22, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency finalizes a rule that makes four important changes to the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act. Critics say the changes will help polluting industries maintain the status quo.
Plantwide Applicability Limits (PALs) - This change will allow a facility to set a Plantwide Applicability Limit (PAL) based on its average emissions over the previous ten years. A facility will be exempted from the New Source Review process when it upgrades or expands its operations if those changes do not cause the plant's emissions to exceed its PAL. Critics complain that the change does not require plants to reduce their overall emissions when a facility expands or modifies operations.
Pollution Control and Prevention Projects - Facilities will be permitted to undertake certain environmentally beneficial activities without having to apply for NSR permits.
Clean Unit Provision - Plants that voluntarily install “best available pollution controls” will be afforded “clean unit” status and exempted from NSR provisions for a period of 15 years. The change is retroactive to 1990.
Emissions Calculation Test Methodology - Facilities will be permitted to use a more lenient method when determining if a plant upgrade has increased its emissions. With the exception of power plants, facilities will be permitted to select any 24-month period during the previous decade to serve as its baseline for determining pre-modification emission levels. The EPA also announces that it intends to revise the “Routine Maintenance, Repair and Replacement” exemption so that any modifications whose costs do not exceed a certain level would be exempt from the NSR provisions requiring plants to install pollution controls and conduct impact assessments on the ambient air quality when upgrading or replacing equipment. [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/22/2002; EarthVision Environmental News, 11/25/2002; Clean the Air, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; ENSR International, 12/24/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

December 15, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces the final rule on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). [Sources: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) final rule] One of its provisions allows factory farms to dump unlimited amounts of raw animal waste on the land. The resulting runoff will pollute waterways, killing fish and spreading disease. The rule also limits corporate liability for environmental damage and allows factory farms to devise their own permit conditions. [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/16/2002]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

December 18, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) tells the EPA to use the discounted value of 63 percent for health impacts on senior citizens in calculating cost-benefit analyses when conducting assessments for new air pollution restrictions on polluting industries. [Knight Ridder, 12/19/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget
          

December 20, 2002      Environmental Impact

       The EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment releases a draft of “Exposure and Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster” for public review. The draft report evaluates outdoor levels of various contaminants to which the public may have been exposed. The draft report also includes results from rodent respiratory toxicology studies which suggest a link between short-term exposure to WTC contaminants and mild lung inflammation and cough. [jipsee Federal Register: December 27, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 249); EPA, 12/20/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

December 21, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency withdraws a Clinton era rule that imposes total pollution limits for all water bodies and requires federal oversight on the clean-up of nearly 300,000 miles of rivers and 5 million acres of lakes. The move will make it easier for states to remove waterways from the clean-up list and more difficult for other waterways to be added. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/2003, pgs 17-18; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Environmental Defense, 1/13/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

(Early 2003)      Bush's environmental record

       Randy Waite of the EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning says in an email to representatives of the meat industry, “We need to start getting across the idea that farms are going to continue to be vulnerable to citizen suits and this data will go a long way in helping us, in partnership, to find solutions to some of those issues, making them less vulnerable in the long run.” The Chicago Tribune, which obtained a copy of the email along with several other documents through the Freedom of Information Act, notes that Waite sounds almost as though he considers himself a partner with the industry his agency is supposed to be regulating, “arrayed against, for example, citizens who want to file lawsuits.” [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Randy Waite, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

January 10, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Bush administration announces a policy directive and proposed rulemaking that would significantly restrict the scope of the Clean Water Act, removing as much as 20 percent, or 20 million acres, of the country's wetlands from federal jurisdiction. Officials claim the measures are necessary in order to comply with a 2001 Supreme Court decision that the US Army Corps of Engineers does not have the authority to regulate intrastate, isolated, non-navigable ponds solely on the basis that they are used by migratory birds. But the proposed rule and policy directive ignores a decision by the Department of Justice that the court's ruling does not necessitate modifying the scope of the Clean Water Act. The administration's directive and proposed rule interpret the 2001 decision to mean that all “isolated” intrastate, non-navigable waters are outside the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/10/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004 Sources: Federal Register, Vol 68., No. 4] Whereas the proposed rule must go through a lengthy federal process before going into effect, the policy directive is enacted immediately. The directive instructs regional offices of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to halt protection of wetlands unless (1) the waterway lies adjacent to navigable rivers, streams and their tributaries or (2) the EPA's headquarters in Washington has granted explicit approval to exercise regulatory authority. No approval however is required for the commencement of activities that could potentially pollute these waters. As a result of this directive, thousands of acres of wetlands, small streams, and other waters instantly lose federal protection. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003; Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004] The proposed rule will generate an immense public outcry. Ninety-nine percent of the 135,000 comments submitted to the EPA and Army Corps on this proposal will be opposed to it. Comments supporting the proposed rule will come from the National Mining Association, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, and other industry groups. Additionally, environmental and natural resource government agencies from 39 states, including 17 with Republican governors, will oppose the plan, while agencies from only three states will support it. Numerous local government entities, scientific groups, as well as a bi-partisan group of 219 representatives and twenty-six senators, will also come out against the proposal. [Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003]
People and organizations involved: US Army Corps of Engineers, Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

February 2003      Bush's environmental record

       A 50-page internal EPA report, written by the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance, finds that the agency has done a poor job enforcing federal water pollution regulations. The study, which looks at about 6,600 industrial installations and wastewater treatment plants between 1999 and 2001, concludes that at any one time a quarter of all large industrial plants and water-treatment facilities are violating federal law. But only a fraction of these are ever held accountable. Furthermore, the office reports, 50 percent of the serious offenders exceed hazardous substance limits by over 100 percent and 13 percent exceed the limits by 1,000 percent. In 2001, the EPA took action against no more than 15 percent of the facilities judged to be out of compliance with water pollution rules. Less than half of these resulted in fines averaging about $6,000. [Washington Post, 6/6/2003; Reuters, 6/10/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

February 4, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The President presents his fiscal 2004 budget proposal. In it are billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to energy companies and several anti-environment provisions including cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, natural resources spending, renewable energy programs, and clean water programs including a $492 million, or 37 percent, cut from a revolving fund used by states to upgrade sewage and septic systems and storm-water run-off projects. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 2/5/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Environmental Spending Under the Bush FY 2003 Budget [Table]]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, George W. Bush
          

March 10, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency grants the oil and gas industry a two-year reprieve from regulations aimed at reducing contaminated water run-off from construction sites. The Clinton-era EPA phase II stormwater pollution rule “A” —scheduled to go into effect on this day—requires that companies obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for construction sites between 1 and 5 acres. But the EPA has decided that the Clinton administration had underestimated the rule's impact on the oil and gas industry. In addition to granting the two-year reprieve, the agency says it will also consider giving the industry a permanent exemption. [Associated Press, 3/10/2003; Business and Legal Reports, 3/14/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Yellowstone National Park, Environmental Protection Agency, Grand Teton National Park  Additional Info 
          

March 11, 2003      Environmental Impact

       Kathleen Callahan, an EPA assistant regional administrator, rejects the New York City firefighters union's request to expand the EPA's cleanup program for residential spaces in Lower Manhattan to four firehouses in Lower Manhattan. “We have not undertaken any cleanup of firehouses,” Callahan explains at an environmental symposium at Fordham University. “The program that we have is strictly residential and therefore, we would not do firehouses.” [Infinity Broadcasting Corp, 3/12/03]
People and organizations involved: Kathleen Callahan, Environmental Protection Agency
          

March 13, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency withdraws a June 2000 rule intended to clean up waters polluted by nonpoint source pollution such as agricultural runoff. The Total Maximum Daily Load was set to take effect under the Clean Water Act. [Florida Department of Environmental Protection; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The rule was opposed by the construction industry which claimed it would increase building costs by requiring contractors to comply with “costly and burdensome water quality requirements.” [Associated Builders and Contractors, 3/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

April 2003      Environmental Impact

       When asked to comment on allegations that the EPA had intentionally used testing methods incapable of detecting ultra fine particles and fibers in order not to find asbestos and other contaminants in Lower Manhattan, agency spokesperson Mary Mears tells Salon Magazine, “There are certain differences of opinion that will not be resolved.” She dismisses the fact that independent labs have found much greater levels of contamination than the EPA's tests, arguing that the private labs may not have used precise EPA methods. She also denies that conditions in Manhattan are unsafe. “We do not agree that this is a public health concern,” she says. “We have not seen the evidence, we do not see the danger.” She explains that the volunteer program is not meant to address a safety problem, just calm the nerves of Lower Manhattan residents. “While we felt there wasn't a big risk in the long term, we felt a need to offer something to those residents,” she said. “We do not feel this is a public-health emergency. But it goes well beyond anything that could be called a PR campaign.” [Salon, 4/15/2003]
People and organizations involved: Mary Mears, Environmental Protection Agency
          

May 5, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency privately meets with factory farmers to negotiate a “safe harbor” agreement. According to one draft of the deal—which bears a remarkable resemblance to a proposal made by industry lawyers (see June 11, 2003) —livestock farms would enroll in a two-year monitoring program during which time they would be exempt from federal air pollution laws and receive amnesty for their past violations as well. In exchange, the farms would pay up to $3,500 to help pay for the program. During the amnesty period, farms below a certain size would be automatically exempted from the laws. After two years, the EPA would use the collected data to establish permanent air emissions standards (see June 11, 2003). [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004; New York Times, 5/6/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] But the proposal does not require that farms submit to enforcement or adopt any technologies after the program is finished. Critics of the proposed deal note also that the number of farms participating in the monitoring program would represent less than 1 percent of the total number of US factory farms. [New York Times, 5/6/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

June 11, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       John Thorne of Capitolink and Richard E. Schwartz, an environmental law attorney, write a memo on behalf of the industrial livestock farm industry to David A. Nielsen and Sally Shaver of the EPA with an “outline for a possible livestock and poultry monitoring and safe harbor agreement.” Under the proposed agreement, the EPA would provide industrial livestock farms with amnesty from federal air quality and toxic waste clean-up laws in exchange for the industry helping to fund an EPA program to monitor air pollution at the farms [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004; Crowell and Moring, 5/22/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Memo: outline for a possible livestock and poultry monitoring and safe harbor agreement ] EPA officials and industry leaders will meet and discuss the proposed agreement on May 5 (see May 5, 2003).
People and organizations involved: Richard E. Schwartz, John Thorne, Sally Shaver, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

June 18, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The EPA inspector-general launches an inquiry seeking to determine “whether the agency is deliberately misleading the public by overstating the purity of the nation's drinking water.” The inspector general is concerned that data collected by states from their utilities—which serves as the basis for EPA assessments on national water quality—is flawed due to significant underreporting of violations. According to EPA officials and internal agency documents, states may be underreporting violations by as much as 50 percent. Notwithstanding these concerns, the EPA will release its unprecedented “Draft Report on the Environment” five days later (see June 23, 2003). The heavily criticized document will claim that in 2002, “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But internal documents dating back to March suggest the figure is closer to the 75 percent to 84 percent range. [The Washington Post, 8/6/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

June 23, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: 2003 Draft Report on the Environment] In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, The Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents ... show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. [The Washington Post, 8/6/2003] Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House. Some time during the spring, administration officials had asked the agency to delete references to a 2001 report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures had risen significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. “In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion,” the New York Times reports. Irritated with the White House's influence on the report, EPA staffers wrote in an April 29 confidential memo that it “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” Unable to reach a compromise with the White House, the EPA elected to drop the entire section. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003] In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; The Guardian, 6/20/2003] The EPA's report also left out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

July 17, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The EPA announces that its budget of $277 million will allow it to begin clean-up work at only 10 of the 20 newly proposed Superfund sites. The agency selected the 10 sites based on their potential for economic redevelopment and their risk to human health. The reason for the funding shortfall is related to the lapsing of a polluter fee in 1995, which shifted the burden of clean-ups away from corporate polluters to taxpayers. The Bush administration has made no effort to push Congress to reinstate the “polluter pays” fee. [EPA, 7/17/2003; Associated Press, 7/17/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

August 14, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency quietly lifts a 25-year-old restriction on the sale of PCB contaminated land. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are linked to cancer and neurological problems. The rollback, based on an EPA reinterpretation of an existing law, is announced in an internal memo written by EPA general counsel Robert Fabricant. Fabricant claims in the memo that the old interpretation represented “an unnecessary barrier to economic redevelopment.” Because the change is considered a “new interpretation” of existing law, the administration has no legal obligation to make a public announcement. Critics, including some EPA staffers, note that the longstanding ban served as an incentive for landowners to notify the EPA of the contamination and clean up their property. As a result, about 100 sites a year were submitted to the agency for review. They also warn that the new policy will make it hard to track sales of polluted sites and to ensure that buyers properly assess the land prior to development. [USA Today, 9/1/2003; New York Times, 9/3/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: EPA memo, Interpretive Statement on Change in Ownership of Real Property Contaminated with PCBs, August 14, 2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, Robert E. Fabricant
          

August 27, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The EPA revises the “New Source Review” (NSR) provision of the Clean Air Act. Previously, the NSR required industrial facilities to install modern pollution controls when they made upgrades to their facilities. However, the provision's revised definition of “routine maintenance” will exempt some 17,000 older power plants, oil refineries and factories from being required to install pollution controls when they replace equipment, provided that the cost does not exceed 20 percent of the replacement cost of what the EPA broadly defines as the entire “process unit.” This restriction basically allows industries to replace entire plants one-fifth at a time with no concomitant responsibility to controlling its emissions. This applies even to circumstances where the upgrades increase pollution. It is estimated that the revised rule could save billions of dollars for utilities, oil companies and others. Industry has spent the last two years heavily lobbying the White House for this rollback. [Reuters, 8/28/2003; Associated Press, 8/28/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer promises to sue the administration, telling reporters, “This flagrantly illegal rule will ensure that ... Americans will breathe dirtier air, contract more respiratory disease, and suffer more environmental degradation caused by air pollution.” [Reuters, 8/28/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Eliot Spitzer, Bush administration
          

October 17, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces that it will not regulate dioxins in land-applied sewage sludge, which is considered to be the second largest source for dioxin exposure. [The Washington Post, 10/18/2003; Associated Press, 10/18/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/17/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The decision goes against a December 1999 proposed rule calling on the EPA to regulate the application of sludge, which is used for fertilizer on farms, forests, parks, and golf courses. [The Washington Post, 10/18/2003; Associated Press, 10/18/2003] The EPA says that regulation is not necessary because dioxins from sewage sludge do not pose significant health or environmental risks. But according to a National Research Council report completed the year before, the agency had been using outdated methods to assess the risks of sewer sludge. [Associated Press, 10/18/2003] According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dioxins are “among the most toxic substances on Earth” and are responsible for causing cancer and diabetes, as well as nervous system and hormonal problems. The NRDC says that the decision violates the Clean Water Act, which charges the agency with restricting the level of toxic pollutants that harm human health or the environment. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/17/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Ivan L. Frederick II
          

October 31, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture announce a decision to approve the unrestricted sale of the pesticide atrazine. Manufacturers of the chemical will be responsible for monitoring atrazine residue levels in only a small percentage of the watersheds vulnerable to atrazine contamination and ensuring that they do not exceed the Clean Water Act's total maximum daily load (TMDL). Other vulnerable waterways will not be monitored by the manufacturers or the EPA. For example, Syngenta—the major manufacturer of the chemical—agreed in private meetings with the EPA that it would monitor atrazine pollution in 20 of 1,172 watersheds labeled as high risk beginning in 2004. The number would double the following year. Atrazine has been linked to cancer and is potentially harmful to endangered fish, reptiles, amphibians, mussels, and aquatic plant life. [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/31/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/31/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Syngenta, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, George W. Bush
          

November 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The National Cancer Institute publishes a study demonstrating that 25,000 workers exposed to formaldehyde had an increased risk of leukemia. The EPA will ignore the results of this study when it creates a new federal rule regulating formaldehyde emissions in February 2004 (see September 2002). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, National Cancer Institute
          

November 26, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       EPA officials complete a draft proposal outlining plans to revise the conclusion of a court-ordered December 2000 EPA study which had determined that mercury emissions “pose significant hazards to public health and must be reduced.” As a result of the 2000 study, the agency had been ordered to propose a “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) standard for all coal-burning power plants by December 15, 2003. [EPA, 12/14/2000; The Washington Post, 12/3/2003; Associated Press, 12/2/2003 Sources: Mercury White Paper] But instead of complying with this mandate, the EPA's current draft proposal on the regulation of mercury emissions attempts to modify the December 2000 conclusion claiming that it had been based on a misreading of the Clean Air Act. Citing a different provision in the Clean Air Act, the draft proposal recommends a flexible regulatory approach that is more acceptable to industry. It suggests a market-based mandatory “cap and trade” program permitting utility companies to purchase emissions “credits” from cleaner-operating utilities to meet an industry-wide standard. It is estimated that their plan would reduce mercury emissions to 34 tons a year by 2010, or about 30 percent below current levels. But this is a much higher cap than the 26-ton limit initially specified in the White House's “Clear Skies” initiative (see June 5, 2003). The White House claims that by 2018 their “cap and trade” plan would result in a mercury emissions reduction of 70 percent, which is significantly less than the 90 percent reduction that would otherwise be achieved within 3 or 4 years, if the EPA were to keep to the original December 2000 ruling. [The Washington Post, 12/3/2003; Associated Press, 12/2/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

December 2003      Bush's environmental record

       Bruce Buckheit, the director of the EPA's air enforcement office, is ordered to shut down ongoing New Source Review investigations—which he later says were strong cases—at several dozen coal burning power plants. In an April 2004 interview with MSNBC, he will recall: “I had to tell the regional engineers and lawyers, stop. Put your documents in the box, so that hopefully we can get back to it someday.” [MSNBC, 4/20/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Bruce Buckheit
          

Early 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health completes a study of 10,000 workers who have been exposed to formaldehyde and find that they have an increased risk of leukemia. Though not published until March, it is posted on the institute's website in early 2004. The EPA does not consider the results of this study when it creates a new federal rule for regulating formaldehyde emissions in February 2004 (see September 2002). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
          

January 7, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency says in a report to Congress that for the second year in a row, “limited funding prevented EPA from beginning construction at all sites or providing additional funds needed to address sites in a manner believed necessary by regional officials, and caused projects to be segmented into phases and/or scaled back to accommodate available funding.” The report explains that for 2003 (see July 17, 2003), the funding shortfall amounted to $174.9 million. As a result, clean-up work at 11 superfund sites was put off and work at 29 other locations was slowed down. [Government Executive, 1/8/2004; Associated Press, 1/9/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Congressional Request on Funding Needs for Non-Federal Superfund Sites, EPA, January 7, 2004] The 11 sites where work was postponed include Jennison-Wright Corp. in Granite City, Ill.; Continental Steel Corp. in Kokomo, Ind.; Marion Pressure Treating in Marion, La.; Atlas Tack Corp. in Fairhaven, Mass.; and Mohawk Tannery in Nashua, N.H. In 2003, the EPA completed 40 clean-ups, compared to 42 in FY 2002, and 47 in 2001. Under the Clinton administration, an average of 76 clean-ups had been completed each year. [Associated Press, 1/9/2004] The report was requested in July by US Senator Barbara Boxer, House Energy and Commerce ranking member John Dingell, Rep. Hilda Solis, and Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member James Jeffords. [Associated Press, 1/9/2004; Government Executive, 1/8/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Barbara Boxer, James Jeffords, John Dingell, Hilda Solis
          

February 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency meets its February 27, 2004 deadline to come up with a new federal rule regulating formaldehyde emissions. Ignoring the opinion of experts, the EPA did not take into account the findings of two recent studies (see December 8, 2004) (see February 3, 2003) that had found that workers who were exposed to formaldehyde were at an elevated risk of leukemia. The EPA said it did not have time to incorporate the two findings before the deadline. Though extensions for such deadlines are often given, the agency did not request one. Instead, the EPA relied on a cancer risk assessment by the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, a private, nonprofit research organization, funded primarily by chemical companies. That assessment was about 10,000 times weaker than the level previously used by the EPA in setting standards for formaldehyde exposure. The new federal rule is modeled on a proposal that had been designed by a lobbyist for the wood products industry (see January 14, 2002). It creates a new category of “low-risk” plants, which gives the agency the authority to decide on a plant-by-plant basis which facilities pose a risk to public health. It initially exempts eight wood products plants from having to install pollution controls for formaldehyde and other emissions, but could eventually extend the exemptions to 147 or more of the 223 facilities nationwide. The exemption allows qualifying plants to legally skirt pollution-control requirements that had been mandated by a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act requiring all large industrial plants to use “best available” technology in order to reduce emissions of 189 substances. Though backers of the new rule claim that it does not violate the amendment, the lawmakers who wrote the legislation disagree. “I don't have any doubt but that is a way to get around the policy which we worked hard to achieve,” former Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) will tell the Los Angeles Times in May. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) similarly says the exemption is “directly contrary to our intent.” The new rule will save the industry as much as $66 million annually for about 10 years in potential emission control costs. [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Henry A. Waxman, Environmental Protection Agency, David F. Durenberger
          

February 13, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces that it will allow North Dakota to adopt a new method for estimating air pollution. [Los Angeles Times, 2/14/2004; The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The decision was made during a meeting between EPA administrator Michael Leavitt and North Dakota Governor John Hoeven the previous weekend. [The Washington Post, 5/19/2004] According to the agency's own specialists in air quality monitoring, the new method will grossly underestimate pollution levels, potentially allowing North Dakota to relieve itself of the stigma of being the only state whose federal preserves—Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge—are in violation of the Clean Air Act. [The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; USA Today, 9/15/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/13/2004] The lower pollution levels could in turn result in the lifting of local development restrictions, allowing power companies to proceed with plans to build new coal-fired power plants in the area. “That sets the stage for new investments in our energy industry and real progress in our rural communities,” Hoeven explains. [Los Angeles Times, 2/14/2004; The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; Platts, 2/19/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Mike Leavitt, John Hoeven, Environmental Protection Agency
          

February 16, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt signs a final rule permitting power plants to continue using the “once-through” method to cool their turbines. The practice—condemned by critics as the most environmentally-damaging method of cooling available—relies upon water continually drawn from lakes, rivers and reservoirs for the power plants' cooling systems. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2/16/2004; Environmental News Network, 2/18/2004; Associated Press, 1/9/2004; Riverkeeper, 2/17/2004; Democratic Policy Committee, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Every year, some 200 million pounds of aquatic organisms are killed when they are trapped in the intake screens or forced through the water intake structures of these power plants. The new rule requires large power plants to reduce the number of fish and shellfish drawn into the cooling systems by 80 to 95 percent. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2/16/2004] However, the rule also provides large power plants with several “compliance alternatives,” such as using existing technologies, implementing additional fish protection technologies, restocking fish populations and creating wildlife habitat. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2/16/2004; Democratic Policy Committee, n.d.] Leavitt's decision to sanction the continued use of the “once-through” method goes against the advice of his own staff which recommended requiring power plants to upgrade to closed-cycle cooling systems which use 95 percent less water and which pose far less of a risk to aquatic ecosystems. But the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which works under the White House's Office of Management and Budget, reportedly opposed requiring plants to switch to the newer more expensive closed-cycle system. [Environmental News Network, 2/18/2004; Riverkeeper, 2/17/2004] The new rule applies to 550 power plants that withdraw 222 billion gallons of water daily from American waterways. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, Mike Leavitt  Additional Info 
          

March 16, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency grants Environmental Disposal Systems (EDS) an exemption from federal restrictions on land disposal of hazardous waste for two commercial Class 1 injection wells in Romulus, Michigan. It is estimated that each year, the wells will inject roughly 100 million gallons of liquid industrial waste—including chemicals like methanol, acetone and ammonia —into sponge-like rock located thousands of feet below the earth's surface. EPA officials claim that “the waste will stay confined to a layer of rock deep underground and will not threaten human health or the environment.” Local residents and state officials strongly oppose the plan, against which they have been fighting for more than a decade. [Environmental Protection Agency, 3/17/2004; Detroit Free Press, 3/17/2004; Capitol Reports, 3/19/2004; Ecology Center, 12/1999; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Disposal Systems, Environmental Protection Agency
          

April 2, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency posts a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it will continue studying the 51 drinking water contaminants included in its 1998 Contaminant Candidate List. [Sources: Federal Register, Vol 69., No. 64] But the announcement seems to suggest that the EPA is continuing to ignore recommendations embodied in three National Research Council reports—Setting Priorities for Drinking Water Contaminants (1999), Identifying Future Drinking Water Contaminants (1999), and Classifying Drinking Water Contaminants for Regulatory Consideration (2001)—which suggested, among other things, that the agency use the latest gene-mapping technology to screen for a more comprehensive list of contaminants, including waterborne pathogens, chemical agents, disinfection byproducts, radioactive substances and biological compounds. The Natural Resources Defense Council and other health and environmental groups have urged the agency to follow the Council's recommendations in order to protect the public against the numerous contaminants that have been shown to be detrimental to human health but which are not currently regulated. [National Research Council, 5/2001; Natural Resources Defense Council, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Bush administration, National Research Council (NRC), Environmental Protection Agency
          

(May 2004)      Bush's environmental record

       Sylvia Lowrance, the former deputy administrator for enforcement at the EPA, tells the Chicago Tribune that while at the EPA her office had been instructed not to pursue any more pollution cases against farms without the approval of the senior political appointees in the EPA. “That's unprecedented in EPA,” she says. [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, Sylvia Lowrance
          

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