Today, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts refused to grant immunity to former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Todd Whitman.
Whitman, who was head of EPA on 9/11, was seeking immunity from a class-action lawsuit, filed in 2004, by residents, students, and people working in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. These individuals say they were exposed to hazardous materials after the Twin Towers fell.
Judge Batts took Whitman to task for giving reassuring statements to New Yorkers that it was safe to return to their jobs and homes post-9/11, while toxic dust was polluting the neighborhoods.
Calling Whitman's actions "conscience-shocking," Judge Batts also said "No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws."
Whitman certainly does bear much of that blame and responsibility. But the Bush White House also bears responsibility as well.
In 2003, a report issued by EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley concluded that the Bush White House "convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones." The report also said that on September 18, 2001, when the EPA said the air was "safe" to breath, it did not have the data and analyses to sufficiently make that statement.
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