On Marco Island: Independent Reporting, Documenting Government Abuses, Exposing the Syndicate, Historical Records of Crimes Against the Environment

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Not Just on Marco Island - Again EPA Refuses to Release Documents

Secret EPA Report on Libby Clean-Up Sparks Lawsuit

Early Test of Obama/Holder Doctrine on Freedom of Information Act Openness

WASHINGTON - April 2, 2010 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is improperly withholding a long-sought report on whether the agency's clean-up of Libby, Montana is adequate to protect the residents of that beleaguered community, according to a lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The lawsuit will test pledges by President Obama and Attorney General Holder of a new openness and presumption of disclosure in administering the Freedom of Information Act.

PEER is seeking the release of a 2006 report by EPA Office of Inspector General (IG) investigator Cory Rumple concerning the safety and completeness of EPA's removal of deadly vermiculite from the town of Libby. The report assesses the public health implications of the manner in which EPA conducted the clean-up in Libby, where an estimated 200 people have already died and hundreds more sickened by exposure to this virulent form of asbestos, as well as the culpability of responsible EPA officials.

During the past two years, PEER has repeatedly requested the document's release. In 2007, EPA contended that the report could not be disclosed because it was part of an active law enforcement investigation. In 2008, the agency dropped that rationale but asserted that even the factual portions of the report, as opposed to Agent's Rumple's conclusions, were so sensitive that a redacted report could not be released. In a July 28, 2008 letter to PEER, Associate Deputy IG Mark Bialek wrote that releasing only the "summary of information and concerns of various EPA employees and private individuals on technical/scientific issues regarding EPA's residential cleanup program in Libby" reported by Rumple would still reveal the agency's "deliberative process".

Following President Obama's January 21, 2009 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) directive that "The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears", PEER again requested the Rumple report. After EPA indicated that it would take six months to make even an initial determination as to whether to release it (far longer than the 20 working day FOIA deadline), PEER filed a formal appeal. After that appeal drew no response, PEER today filed a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

"The people in Libby deserve to know whether EPA kept its promises to them and performed the removal in the most protective fashion," stated PEER Staff Counsel Christine Erickson, who prepared the complaint, noting that according its website later this year "EPA will transition from emergency Removal Activity to the Remedial Process" in Libby. "There is no record of EPA conducting a risk assessment on its own clean-up plan; the Rumple report explores the consequences of that omission."

On March 19, 2009, Attorney General Holder issued a directive that the Justice Department will defend FOIA lawsuits only when "disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions". The PEER suit will provide an early test on the scope of this new pro-disclosure policy.

"EPA's rationale for keeping this report from the public will not withstand scrutiny," Erickson concluded.

See the EPA basis for withholding the Rumple report on Libby

Read the PEER complaint

Look at the status of the EPA Libby clean-up

View President Obama's Executive Memorandum on FOIA

View the Holder memo

Note recent EPA IG report on FOIA compliance that omits the IG's own FOIA record

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3 Comments:

  • Dear PEER. I am happy to read that you are getting involved in the truth about the lies EPA continues to tell to sell Libby as safe.In the years of my involvement for teuth and to end the poisoning of more people, families and children, even if it took 10 years to be heard, I AM being heard.A Lawyer names Elizabeth Mack and friend Michelle Hartly have promised me and Libby, that IF Libby can not be made safe, relocation of the people is in order.This is what needed done in 1999 when the people were told the truth.Even in the early 70s when EPA tested Libby Tremolite and the rats died of Meso, something should of been done then. Today, the EPA is GUILTY of this continued deadly exposure and have downplayed this deadly exposure from day one in 1999, when they came to Libby and instead of a health and safety issue, Libby became big business and millions have been wasted/stolon for nothing because in the 10 years EPA has been in Libby, MORE of a contamination and exposure has been created.Just the fact that EPA used deadlier soil to replace deadly soil in town, over 400 yards had to be redone but the exposure created killed Libby all over again. The Plywood plant fire killed Libby again and when they have a wind storm...Libby is killed again. I prove this with the findings of bark samples taken that found 530 million Tremolite asbestos fibers in one gram of bark. That one gram of bark, WILL kill Libby all over again. Just imagine what that one tree contains...The corruption and money theft in the millions is criminal and there has been enough investigations by Sen Baucus and EPA jet no action on what they found. 2005, 4 million came up missing from 21 million alotted for the clean up. IF this was investigated,I believe that 4 million went on 16,000 soil samples EPA said they did and found nothing....It is impossible to have 16,000 samples in Libby and find nothing.This is criminal and of course, come to find out, EPA used the wrong scopes to test. Oh but were offered two new scopes and turned them down.(David Newman testimony)But most of all, the continued deadly exposure to Tremolite in the 10 years and hundreds of millions and NOT ONE HUMAN BEING has been protected...Since 1999, over 300 people, families have moved to Libby ONLY to carry on the tree of death to all who inhale the deadly air that is killing me and my family and a entire town. PEER, thank you and I do hope this is the beginning of the end of the killing of innocent human beings from the town of Libby Mt.Relocation must be in order to stop the killing of more people...Any help I can give let me know as you know what I am capable of....and why. Thank you and keep me informed please on what happens...So much criminal misconduct of so many for so long.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:28:00 PM  

  • Regulating agency that has become a political arm. Be cautious of government agencies that purport to seek the truth.

    Truth generally is found through citizen awareness and pursuit.

    Thanks Dr. Sanchez. Continue the your exemplary efforts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, April 28, 2010 6:47:00 AM  

  • this is true. i found that the inherent nature of the federal agencies is to be political - case in point the epa with what they prosecute and what they dont - the latter excused by the tired ruse of "lack of resources".

    worse is the state agencies like the fdep that is just outright corrupt and complicit.

    the iron triangle is true today as it was when it was first suggested 50+ years ago.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, April 29, 2010 2:22:00 PM  

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