“Today four Democratic members of the EPW Committee sent me a letter requesting a hearing on the report by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General detailing the federal government’s response to the September 11th attacks. Considering the unprecedented nature of the attacks, the response, in all its forms, was highly commendable, as hundreds of dedicated and courageous public servants, surrounded by fear and chaos, went to extraordinary lengths to provide the public with essential information about air quality and health risks.
“My staff has been studying the IG report and, if necessary, will take appropriate steps to gather any additional information that can shed light on this matter. Thus it is not necessary to hold a public hearing in order for the committee to conduct its oversight role.
“Additionally, there are other reasons to decline this request. The IG’s report provides an extensive look into how EPA and other federal agencies responded in the days and weeks following the attacks. Further, the EPW Committee has had three hearings on September 11th, one held in New York City, that examined air quality concerns, and two others that explored better ways to respond to future terrorist attacks and steps to protect the nation’s first responders from health risks.
“Based on those hearings, the committee took appropriate action. On July 30, the committee approved The Disaster Area Health and Environmental Monitoring Act of 2003, which would, among other things, provide free medical screenings to first responders.
“Finally, it appears to me, as evidenced by the flurry of scurrilous attacks leveled at the President’s honesty and integrity on this matter, that the motivation for a hearing is strictly political. It’s interesting to note that three of the four signatories to the Democrats’ letter are running for president. It’s imperative that we put politics aside in the interest of continuing efforts to strengthen homeland security and protect the men and women who provide it.”