Lawsuit Against EPA Proceeds

by TChris

Jenna Orkin just wants her government to tell the truth.

Within days of the World Trade Center collapse, someone ordered Environmental Protection Agency administrators to tell New Yorkers the air was safe. ... No matter that private tests showed the air remained full of lead, asbestos, mercury, benzene. No matter that, according to documents forced out of the EPA by a Freedom of Information request, the agency's own tests agreed that the air in Lower Manhattan--who wanted to bother with Brooklyn?--wasn't fit to breathe.

Orkin joined other plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the EPA, contending that her constitutional right to be protected from harm by government officials was violated when "Christine Todd Whitman, then the EPA administrator, and her staff made false statements and failed to carry out its cleanup duties." An initial ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts might pave the way for the truth to come out.

In her 83-page ruling, Judge Batts found enough evidence for the case to proceed. She not only denied the EPA's motion to dismiss it, but refused to grant Whitman immunity. On the contrary, she scolded the former EPA head, declaring her statements so "deliberate and misleading" they "shock the conscience."

"No argument can be made that Whitman could not have understood from existing law that her conduct was unlawful," Batts wrote. ...

Batts' decision paves the way for the plaintiffs to sit government officials down and make them testify under oath.

Had the EPA been honest, New Yorkers could have taken steps to protect their health.

Bob Gulack [is] a plaintiff who works for the Securities and Exchange Commission. One month after the attacks, the SEC leased offices in a building on Broadway, two blocks from ground zero. Almost from the moment Gulack arrived, he began experiencing ailments he never had before. His lungs filled with fluid. He struggled to breathe. Doctors diagnosed him with reactive airway disorder and permanent lung damage, and attributed the ailments to 9-11.

Orkin and the other plaintiffs hope that discovery of the truth will lead to accountability.

"Somebody has to blow the whistle on these guys," exclaims Diane Lapson, a plaintiff who heads the tenant association at Independence Plaza North, an affordable-housing complex three blocks from ground zero. ... She's furious with the government officials who told her not to worry. "They're the naked emperors," she seethes. "Somebody has to stand up and say, 'You guys have no clothes.'"

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  • Re: Lawsuit Against EPA Proceeds (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Tue Feb 21, 2006 at 11:32:50 AM EST
    Our government needs to go back to kindergarten and re-learn that honesty is the best policy. There is literally nothing our government will not lie about. That being said, who in their right mind would believe the govt. when they said the air was safe? I sure didn't, I was close enough to see the massive cloud of smoke and dust that enveloped lower Manhattan. It was obvious to this non-scientist that the air quality was bad news, regardless of the lies told by the EPA. Why couldn't they just level with us, and admit the air was bad news and suggest some ways to minimize the health risk?

    Re: Lawsuit Against EPA Proceeds (none / 0) (#2)
    by Johnny on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 06:23:01 PM EST
    Why couldn't they just level with us, and admit the air was bad news and suggest some ways to minimize the health risk?
    Good question. I don't have an answer, but I suppose it is kind of a "Oh just ignore that big gray mammal with the long nose, sitting in the living room" thing... If, on 9/13/01, it turned out that the air was poisoning people, panic would have ensued. Just remember that no-one knew how close to Chernobyl 3-mile island was until a long time after. Compare it to, say, yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater... Only there is a real fire.