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Profile: Office of the Inspector General (EPA) (EPA OIG)
Office of the Inspector General (EPA) (EPA OIG) was a participant or observer in the following events:
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 ; US Congress, 6/25/2002]
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]
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 ]
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]
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]
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]
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]
The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) completes an interim report on the EPA’s response to the environmental disaster ensuing from the collapse and burning of the World Trade Center towers. [BNA Daily Environment Report, 3/20/2003] The EPA OIG’s final report will be released in August 2003 (see August 21, 2003).
The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) releases its investigative report on the EPA’s response to the environmental consequences resulting from the collapse and burning of the World Trade Center towers. [BNA Daily Environment Report, 3/20/2003; Environmental Protection Agency, 8/21/2003 ] The report, titled, “EPA’s Response to the World Trade Center Disaster Collapse: Challenges, Successes, and Areas for Improvement,” concludes:
The agency did not have sufficient data to support its claim that air in Lower Manhattan following September 11 was “safe to breathe” (see January 5, 2006).
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) “heavily influenced” the EPA’s press releases, minimizing the risk to public health. Selected emails analyzed by OIG “indicated that CEQ dictated the content of early press releases” (see (September 12, 2001-December 31, 2001)).
The EPA does not have an adequate system for reviewing and approving the content of EPA press releases.
The EPA misled the public by failing to acknowledge that “health standards do not exist” for the cumulative simultaneous impact of exposure to more than one toxin and that the synergistic effects resulting from these combinations are not well-understood.
The EPA Region 2 incorrectly applied AHERA and NESHAP asbestos standards as safety benchmarks when in fact these referred to the detection limits of certain testing methods (see (September 12, 2001)).
The EPA failed to consider the short-term impacts of acute exposure to various toxins.
The EPA lacked sufficient data on 10 of the 14 “pollutants of concern” identified by scientists as possible components of the WTC dust and debris.
The EPA based its assessments on a risk standard of 1-in-10,000 for only some of carcinogenic pollutants thought to be contained in the clouds instead of the 1-in-1,000,000 acceptable-risk standard. It also ignored the agency’s traditional reliance on the 1-in-100,000 level, which usually triggers corrective action.
The OIG determined there is “no evidence that EPA attempted to conceal data results from the public.” However, EPA scientist Cate Jenkins provides evidence the EPA and the City of New York DEP did in fact alter and in effect, conceal data results (see July 15, 2004).
The OIG finds that the EPA should have implemented the National Contingency Program (see 1972), which would have given EPA jurisdiction over other government agencies and control over the issue of indoor air contamination. Critics of this report will argue that the EPA had in fact implemented the NCP immediately after the attacks (see After November 1, 2001).
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