U.S. Rep. Nadler Criticizes EPA's Continued Evasion of Cleanup Responsibility

Mar 24, 2002 Issues: 9/11 Attacks

NEW YORK - Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today rebuked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its continued evasion of its responsibility to act in accordance with laws and policies mandating it to clean up sites contaminated by acts of terrorism and its disregard for the residents of Lower Manhattan. In response to a press release issued today by the agency, Rep. Nadler again called on the EPA to “come clean about its utterly inadequate response and proceed swiftly to clean up both the inside and outside of buildings in Lower Manhattan.”

The EPA press release announced that New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), with EPA guidance, will remove debris from rooftops and facades.  The agencies also announced that they “will work to build on an indoor air study conducted in November and December.”  When contacted, the EPA did not provide immediate details on how the indoor air study will be expanded.

“Once again, the EPA is ignoring indoor areas where people live and work.  As for the indoor air study, we have yet to learn the details of what was done in November and December, let alone what will be done today," said Rep. Nadler.  "I fail to see why the EPA needs to do a study anyway, when it is clear from the National Contingency Plan and from Presidential Directives that the EPA has the mandate to coordinate all response efforts taken to remediate hazardous materials, including contamination inside buildings.”

“I cannot understand why the Administration is letting the plight of the residents of Ground Zero fall on deaf ears,” he added.

The National Contingency Plan is authorized by the CERCLA statute (42 USC §9604), and provides the framework for EPA’s response to the release of hazardous substances, pollutants and contaminants.

Commenting on EPA Regional Administrator Kenny’s statement in the press release that “Actions speak louder than words…” Rep. Nadler said, “When it comes to the needs of the residents and workers who have been victims of the terrorist attack, the EPA refuses even to mouth the right words, let alone perform any actions on indoor environments that would ensure the health and safety of people living and working in and around Ground Zero.”

Rep. Nadler pointed out that in a speech delivered by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman in November 2001, she acknowledged the EPA’s responsibility for cleanup of buildings contaminated in a terrorist attack.

Under the Presidential Decision Directive 62, signed by then-President Clinton in 1998, she said, “the EPA is assigned lead responsibility for cleaning up buildings and other sites contaminated by chemical or biological agents as a result of an act of terrorism.”

“If Administrator Whitman was so clear on the duties and responsibilities in November 2001, why did she not enforce them two months earlier, and why does the EPA continue to shirk its duties more than six months after the attack," asked Rep. Nadler.

Rep. Nadler was elected to Congress in 1992. He represents the 8th Congressional District in New York, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the area now known as Ground Zero.