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Environmental Impact of 9/11 Attacks

The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

Project: Environmental Impact of the 9/11 Attacks
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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. [General Accounting Office, 7/27/2001 pdf file; US Congress, 6/25/2002 Sources: Robert J. Martin]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

Congressional authorization of the EPA National Ombudsman office expires with the sunset of the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (see November 24, 1984). [Environmental Protection Agency, 1/12/1999]

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

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 Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

October 18, 1992: EPA Hires Ombudsman

The EPA hires Robert J. Martin as the agency’s National Ombudsman (see November 24, 1984). [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

The EPA publishes a “Draft Guidance for the National Hazardous Waste Ombudsman and the Regional Superfund Ombudsmen Program,” which attempts to “clarify” the National Ombudsman’s function. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1/3/2001; US Congress, 6/25/2002] 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. [Washington Post, 11/29/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Robert J. Martin

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

The General Accounting Office (GAO) issues a report on the National Ombudsman’s office at the request of the Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Environment and Hazardous Materials. [US Congress, 6/25/2002; US Congress, 7/16/2002] The report criticizes the EPA’s January guidance (see January 3, 2001) and concludes that the EPA’s national and regional ombudsmen do not have sufficient autonomy. [Washington Post, 11/29/2001] The GAO report recommends the following:
bullet Strengthen the ombudsman’s independence by moving the office outside of the solid waste program;
bullet Provide the ombudsman with a separate budget and staff;
bullet Increase the ombudsman’s accountability by requiring the office to develop specific criteria for its investigations. [General Accounting Office, 7/27/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Government Accountability Office

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

National Ombudsman Robert Martin sends a memorandum to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman suggesting that the agency implement the recommendations in the General Accounting Office’s July 2001 report (see July 27, 2001). He advises against a proposal under consideration that would move his office to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). He argues that doing so would not increase the ombudsman’s independence and notes that the ombudsman’s mission is very different than the OIG’s. [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/26/2001 pdf file; US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (EPA), Robert J. Martin, Government Accountability Office, Christine Todd Whitman

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman announces that the National Ombudsman Office will be relocated to the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and that control of all National Ombudsman cases will be likewise transferred to the OIG. She claims the change “will give the ombudsman more independence and the impartiality necessary to conduct credible inquiries.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/27/2001] The planned change would give the EPA OIG authority to exercise editorial control over the ombudsman’s comments if they concern criminal investigations. [Associated Press, 4/8/2002] Additionally, under the plan the EPA OIG would decide which cases are investigated. Decisions regarding budgets and staff would also be handled by the OIG. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/23/2002] Ombudsman Robert Martin vehemently objects to the plan, telling The Washington Post in an interview that putting his office under the OIG would effectively dissolve the national ombudsman function at the EPA. “I translate that as the IG is taking over my cases. They’re going to review and determine whether complaints citizens have made have merit,” Martin explains. “They’re going to be doing my job.” [Washington Post, 11/29/2001; Associated Press, 4/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Robert J. Martin, Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

Environmental Protection Agency ombudsman Robert Martin writes to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman criticizing her decision (see September 28, 2001) to transfer his office to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Martin challenges her assertion that this would result in greater autonomy, noting that the IOG had previously “interfered with [a]… National Ombudsman investigation” of the Marjol Batter Site. [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/26/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Office of the Inspector General (EPA), Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

Eighteen United States Congressional representatives write to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman requesting that she refrain from transferring the National Ombudsman’s office to the EPA’s Inspector General until after Congressional hearings on the issue have been held in early 2002. Nine additional Congressional representatives write to Whitman on December 19 (see December 7, 2001). [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (EPA), Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

Nine US Congressional representatives write to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman asking that she refrain from transferring the National Ombudsman office. Eighteen Congressional representatives have already submitted the same request to Whitman (see Afternoon November 27, 2001). [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin agrees to investigate the World Trade Center environmental case at the request of US Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York. [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Jerrold Nadler, Robert J. Martin

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) file a lawsuit challenging EPA Administrator Christie Whitman’s plan to relocate the ombudsman’s office to the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) (see Morning November 27, 2001). [Associated Press, 1/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Christine Todd Whitman, Government Accountability Project

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

US Federal District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts issues a temporary restraining order preventing EPA Administrator Christie Whitman from implementing a plan (see Morning November 27, 2001) to transfer the ombudsman’s office and investigative files to the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The restraining order will expire in early April (see April 6, 2002). [Salon, 1/14/2002; US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Richard W. Roberts

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

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, 2/24/2002] 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. [United Press International, 2/24/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/25/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, Thomas Cahill, Hugh Kaufman, US Geological Service, Jerrold Nadler, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Alison Johnson, Cate Jenkins, PhD., Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

Following the February 23 hearing (see February 21, 2002) on the environmental contamination that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Center, EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin recommends that the EPA take immediate steps to protect the environment and health of children and young adults attending schools in and around Ground Zero. [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

Doug Lair, the supervisor of EPA On Scene Coordinator Charlie Fitzsimmon, in a letter to EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin, claims that Fitzsimmons spent only “two weeks in New York City in September” and that “he has minimal knowledge of the World Trade Center response activities conducted beyond the two weeks he spent there.” [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002] This statement contradicts evidence that Fitzsimmons and another OSC were actually at the WTC site for a longer period of time (see October 5, 2001) (see October 9, 2001-October 19, 2001).

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Charlie Fitzsimmons, Doug Lair

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

The EPA’s National Ombudsman’s office publishes a report criticizing the EPA’s response to the contamination that was caused by the destruction of the World Trade Center. Robert J. Martin, the EPA National Ombudsman, finds that the “EPA has neither fully used its legal authorities nor its existing hazardous materials response capabilities as a leader of the National Response System to aid the victims of the terrorist attack….” [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]
Observations -
bullet The EPA “initiated the National Contingency Plan (NCP) by mobilizing EPA On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) [from various locations in the US to work] in Lower Manhattan (see (8:50 a.m. EST) September 11, 2001) to sample indoor and outdoor air, dust and water to, among other things, determine the levels of contamination.”
bullet “[T]he United States Geological Survey (USGS) testified that the plume of contaminated dust from the attacks was highly caustic with pH readings at least as high as 12.1 (see September 20, 2001).”
bullet “The Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has concluded that all dust from the World Trade Center attack must be presumed to be asbestos containing material (ACM) (see January 31, 2002).”
bullet “During the last thirty years as a leader of the National Response System, EPA has used the National Contingency Plan as a framework to perform indoor air testing and remediation where there have been releases of hazardous material into homes, schools, and/or offices throughout the United States.”
Conclusions -
bullet “A clear reading of the definition of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), leads to the reasonable conclusion that all of the material, released from the attack may be a hazardous waste.”
bullet “[A]ny cleanup of this dust, should have been and must now be performed in Ml compliance with the OSHA regulations including but not limited to 29 CFR 1910 and 1926.”
bullet “The EPA is not being honest about the presence of EPA On Scene-Coordinators in New York (see October 5, 2001) (see October 9, 2001-October 19, 2001) (see March 11th, 2002).”
bullet “EPA has not fully discharged its duties under PDD (Presidential Directive) 62 (see November 28, 2001), the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see 1972), and the 2001 OMB Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism (see August 2001). EPA has abandoned its responsibilities for cleaning up buildings (both inside and out) that are contaminated, or that are being re-contaminated, as a result of the uncontrolled chemical releases from the World Trade Center terrorist attack.”
Recommendations -
bullet “EPA Region II should, pursuant to authorities under Presidential Directive PDD 62, and the National Contingency Plan (NCF) immediately clean the ducts and upgrade the ventilation systems to install high efficiency filtration at the Stuyvesant High School during spring break.”
bullet “EPA Region II should execute authorities under Presidential Directive PDB 62, the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and consistent with Administrator Whitman’s statement in Libby, Montana four days before the World Trade Center terrorist attack, issue legal guarantees to all building owners, building managers, local businesses, the New York City Board of Education, and condominium and coop owners to protect them from assuming the costs of cleanup from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.”
bullet “Consistent with Presidential Directive PDD 62, the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and Administrator Whitman’s statement in Libby, Montana four days before the World Trade Center terrorist attack, EPA Region II should cleanup all impacted buildings (interiors and exteriors) in conjunction with corresponding remediation at ‘ground zero.’”

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Robert J. Martin

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Deception, The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

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]

Entity Tags: Richard W. Roberts, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

US District Judge Richard W. Roberts vacates a temporary restraining order (see January 11, 2002) against the EPA, which had prevented the agency from transferring the function of the EPA’s national ombudsman to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) (see Morning November 27, 2001). The case is referred to the United States Office of Special Counsel. Within hours, EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman and the EPA Office of Inspector General move to implement the planned changes (see Morning November 27, 2001) to the EPA National Ombudsman office. [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard W. Roberts, Christine Todd Whitman, Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) changes the locks to the office of National Ombudsman Robert Martin while he is away on official travel and sick leave. The contents of the office—computers, phones, and the files of pending cases—are removed. [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

On Earth Day, Robert Martin resigns from his position as the EPA national ombudsman in protest of the EPA’s decision to curb his autonomy by placing his office under the jurisdiction of the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG). Martin believes EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman’s decision to relocate jurisdiction of the office was caused by Martin’s criticisms (and those of his chief investigator, Hugh Kaufman) of her potential conflicts of interest in respect to a Denver Superfund Site, the Marjol Battery site in Throop, PA, and his criticism of the EPA’s response to environmental consequences following the World Trade Center attack in Lower Manhattan. In his letter of resignation, Martin accuses the EPA of concealing data regarding WTC toxic substances from residents, workers, and students in Lower Manhattan. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/23/2002; US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugh Kaufman, Christine Todd Whitman, Robert J. Martin

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

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