WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senior members of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today called for a hearing on reports that the White House influenced Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality reports after the September 11 attacks at the World Trade Center. The EPA Inspector General recently released a report that indicated that the White House Council on Environmental Quality convinced the EPA to issue unfounded reassuring statements and delete cautionary statements regarding air quality levels in lower Manhattan following the World Trade Center attacks. The following is a letter sent to EPW Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R – Ok., from U.S. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D – NY, Jim Jeffords, I – Vt., Joe Lieberman, D – Conn., and Bob Graham, D – Fla., on Thursday. September 4, 2003 The Honorable James Inhofe
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Inhofe:

We respectfully request that the full Committee on Environment and Public Works hold a hearing by September 18, 2003 on the safety of indoor and ambient air quality in the World Trade Center area immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Specifically, we are concerned about the findings of a new report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General (OIG), which stated that local citizens received inadequate information from EPA about the safety of their air. Furthermore, we are deeply troubled by the OIG's determination that the White House Council on Environmental Quality appears to have pressured EPA to downplay risks to public health. Unfortunately, this behavior seems to be consistent with other White House actions that attempt to politicize information and keep the public in the dark about the facts. Accordingly, we ask that a representative of the Administration, such as James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, testify at the hearing, along with Nikki Tinsley, the Inspector General of the EPA. Evidence gathered through previous hearings, news reports, health studies, and citizen interviews has indicated that the public desired greater information than what was provided by EPA about the health risks associated with living and working in the World Trade Center area on and after September 11. EPA staff should be commended for their tremendous effort in responding to this tragedy. However, this Inspector General report highlights some serious concerns that should be examined further by this Committee as it works to find ways to protect citizens from future terrorist attacks. As part of this hearing, the Committee should also examine the adequacy of the Federal government's preparedness for responding to other possible disasters, particularly in terms of air quality and other environmental monitoring systems and data, and the Federal role in both informing emergency responders of potential health threats and tracking the long-term health of citizens and workers exposed as a result of a disaster. We are encouraged by your desire to work to improve our nation's response to terrorist threats, and look forward to working with you on this important matter. Sincerely,