Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is the EPA Playing Dumb on Dispersants?

A career whistleblower says the agency knows more than it's letting on about the risks of the oil-spill clean-up chemicals.

— By Kate Sheppard

Tue Jul. 20, 2010 3:00 AM PDT

An Environmental Protection Agency staff member is accusing his employer of being coy when it comes to dispersant use in the Gulf. Career whistleblower Hugh Kaufman says EPA officials know that the chemicals present a threat to public health and the Gulf ecosystem and should be banned; they just don't want to say so.

Kaufman, a senior policy analyst in the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, alleges that agency administrator Lisa Jackson sidestepped the issue last week in her answers to questions about whether the agency has the authority to call off use of dispersants in the Gulf. The agency, he says, is deliberately downplaying the threat—and its own role in regulating the chemicals—to protect itself from liability and keep the public from getting too alarmed.

This is far from the first time Kaufman has raised concerns about the EPA's handling of a major national disaster. In fact, he has been blowing whistles on the EPA since he began working there in 1971, just a few months after it was founded. He criticized the Carter administration's handling of hazardous waste issues, including the infamous Love Canal example in the late 1970s and is credited with spurring the formation of the Superfund program. In 1982 he went after the Reagan administration for not enforcing laws on hazardous waste and toxic chemicals as well, and helped send deputy EPA administrator Rita Lavelle to jail for perjury in 1983. The 2002 book Whistleblowing includes an entire section on Kaufman.


No comments: