Whitman defends policies on N.J.Star-Ledger, July 10,
Critics accuse EPA chief of turning her back on state's
BY ROBERT COHEN
WASHINGTON -- Stung by criticism that her policies are hurting her
home state, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman
yesterday defended her record and insisted she would never turn her back on New
Responding to charges by top New Jersey Democrats that she is
championing positions that will worsen the state's air, water and
pollution, the former Republican governor called the accusations groundless and
"It is enormously unfair to say I've turned my
back on New Jersey," Whitman said. "I live there. I love the state. My children
all the time. I have broader responsibilities now, but my personal
commitment will always be with the people of New Jersey."
Earlier in the
day, Gov. James E. McGreevey, New Jersey
Democratic Sens. Robert Torricelli and Jon Corzine, Rep. Frank Pallone
(D-6th Dist.) and State Environmental
Commissioner Bradley Campbell held a Capitol Hill news conference to charge that
Whitman policies are undermining the state's environment.
Democrats said Whitman's stance on toxic waste site cleanups, pollution from
out-of-state power plants and ocean dumping represented a stark reversal from
the views she held as governor of New Jersey.
"We have an EPA
administrator who has been co-opted out of the right positions into roll-back
positions on environmental protection for New Jersey citizens," said
Pallone said the policies under Whitman's stewardship will have
a disproportionately negative impact on New Jersey because of the state's long
history of industrial pollution.
"The EPA administrator should be ashamed
of herself," said Pallone. "These are issues she championed as governor and now
she has done an about-face."
The Democrats pointed to a Bush
Administration proposal they said would weaken long-standing air pollution
regulations for older power plants and refineries, a recent report from EPA's
inspector general saying Superfund cutbacks would halt funding at four hazardous
waste sites in New Jersey and reduce financing on five others, and Whitman's
move to allow the Navy to dump 55,000 tons of contaminated dredge spoil six
miles off the New Jersey coast.
Whitman said the criticism was off
"I am very disappointed that leaders of the state who should know
better would level charges that are not based on the facts," said Whitman. "I'm
afraid this is politics as usual."
Whitman said reforms are needed in the
regulation of power plants, and denied the administration's plan would increase
pollution. She added the proposal -- which would allow plants to modernize
without meeting emissions standards for new plants -- will be subjected to
extensive public comment and will not take effect for more than a
The former governor also noted the administration has proposed
Congress enact a "Clear Skies" initiative, which she said would greatly reduce
contaminants and benefit New Jersey.
Whitman denied charges she is
abandoning toxic cleanups, saying the administration has kept funding at the
same level as the average for the past decade.
"There is no ongoing work
stopped at any Superfund site in New Jersey," said Whitman.
She also said
the Navy's plan to dump dredge materials in the ocean is currently "on hold" for
further review, but that the EPA does not believe the material poses an
McGreevey said Whitman had been involved as
governor in negotiations to limit ocean dumping, and called it "unfortunate"
that she appears to be reversing that position.
He also insisted there
have been stoppages and slowdowns in the cleanup of toxic waste sites in New
Jersey. He said this will have serious public health consequences for New Jersey
"The federal government ought to be expediting the pace of
the cleanup. It is unfortunate Gov. Whitman has actually removed sites from
funding," said McGreevey.
Torricelli said the administration's
environmental policies "are doing real damage to people in New Jersey," but he
was not as critical of the EPA chief as his colleagues were. He said Whitman is
in a "difficult position" trying to balance her own views with other powerful
Whitman quickly rejected Torricelli's conjecture.
not a martyr," said Whitman. "This President has not asked me to do anything
that is counter to my principles on these issues."