April 2002 - VOLUME 23 - NUMBER 4
An Interview with Hugh Kaufman
Hugh Kaufman joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at its inception in 1971. He helped found the Solid and Hazardous Waste Program and was the chief investigator of major contaminated sites, including Woburn, Massachusetts, Love Canal, New York, and Times Beach, Missouri. He later helped draft the original Superfund law. During the Reagan administration, his testimony before Congress set in motion a chain of events that forced President Reagan to fire a number of top EPA officials in 1983, including Rita LaVelle, who went to jail for lying to Congress. In the last five years, he has been aiding the EPAís ombudsmanís office as chief investigator.
|Based on federal ethics rules, in any issue in which Citigroup may be involved, Whitman is required to recuse herself and assign some other EPA official to make decisions. But she has not recused herself on any issues involving Citigroup.||
Multinational Monitor: What is U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator Christine Whitmans connection to Citigroup and why
would that compromise her ability to perform her job?
Given these substantial economic ties, based on federal ethics rules,
in any issue in which Citigroup may be involved, Whitman is required to
recuse herself and assign some other EPA official to make decisions. But
she has not recused herself on any issues involving Citigroup.
The issues involving Citigroup that she has either made a decision on
or an individual under her influence and control made decisions on could
save Citigroup hundreds of millions of dollars and may have already saved
the company that amount of money. The cases include the World Trade Center
contamination case, the Shattuck case and Marjol Battery case, as well
as the decision she made in late November to dissolve the EPAs ombudsman
office. All of those together could save Citigroup hundreds of millions
Judge Roberts will hold a hearing in April to determine if the temporary
restraining order should be turned into a permanent injunction. Well
also be filing contempt of court motions against Mrs. Whitman for violating
the temporary restraining order.
Among other things, according to her press spokesman, the Inspector General
is investigating my claims to put them to rest. In other words, Whitman
is using the IGs office as a vehicle to obstruct the evidentiary
process in the court proceeding before Judge Roberts. So well be
asking the judge to hold Mrs. Whitman and the Inspector General in contempt
The ombudsman has in the past forced the EPA to withdraw consent decrees
where theyve been flawed, as this one is.
So long as the ombudsmans office functions, theres a threat
that Citigroup will not be able to buy out of their liabilities at Shattuck
for 10 cents on the dollar. Whitmans action would have the immediate
effect of muzzling the voice of accountability within the EPA.
The ombudsman's office has been, and would otherwise continue to be,
the primary source of information about the inadequacy of clean-up plans
of highly toxic waste sites such as Shattuck that have the potential to
affect public health and the environment.
There have been reports in the Washington Post and other papers that
area residents and rescue workers have suffered an epidemic of respiratory
illnesses. Were talking about at least 100,000 people who may have
been affected. People were sent home and not allowed to leave their homes.
Insurance companies were saving a fortune, because they could point to
EPAs opinion that things were safe and not do anything.
We have testimony from people who attended the ombudsmans hearings
on the case that their insurance companies, including Travelers [part
of Citigroup], did this. Travelers took a $560 million hit already
they dont want to cough up another $500 million.
|During Mrs. Whitmanís tenure as administrator at EPA, Citigroup signed a consent decree with EPA that limits their liability for cleaning up the site to $7 million. Itís a sweetheart deal that would transfer as much as $93 million of the cleanup costs to taxpayers.|