26 June 2003
EPA attorney says Justice lawyer asked her to keep mum
Associated Press Writer
former Environmental Protection Agency attorney said Thursday she
was pressured not to testify about her concerns with an agreement
that could save chemical companies hundreds of millions of dollars
in cleanup costs for the PCB pollution of Anniston, Ala.
MacGillivray, formerly a Superfund attorney who focused on the case
of New Jersey's Hudson River, said a high-ranking EPA official told
her Anniston didn't make a list of national cleanup priorities because
Monsanto, one of the companies found liable, didn't want it listed.
the federal government took over and imposed a consent decree that
mandated a federal study rather than the more extensive and immediate
cleanup sought by the Anniston community and was expected to be
ordered by a state judge.
a court hearing on the consent decree, MacGillivray said she got
several calls from Bill Weinischke, the lead Department of Justice
attorney in the case, suggesting she shouldn't testify.
felt intimidated," said MacGillivray, who is now a senior attorney
for Riverkeeper Inc., a Garrison, N.Y.-based environmental group.
"I felt this was so inappropriate for an attorney to be calling
me repeatedly, giving me various reasons as to why I would be doing
something I shouldn't be. It was just an intense feeling of pressure,
and it made me feel tremendously uncomfortable."
spending the weekend thinking it over, MacGillivray decided to testify
in the hearing last January.
transcript of her testimony shows she told the judge about Weinischke's
calls and said he suggested she would be doing a "disservice"
to the Anniston community and doubted her employer would approve.
MacGillivray said she had already received approval from Riverkeeper
Department spokesman Blain Rethmeier said the matter was a misunderstanding
and that Weinischke didn't try to discourage MacGillivray from appearing
in court. However, Rethmeier acknowledged that Weinischke warned
her that her comments could delay the cleanup.
is an attorney with 15 to 20 years experience working on these cases,"
Rethmeier said. "He's a seasoned attorney who has a long list
of accomplishments and is respected in the Superfund community.
It's not like this guy was trying to be disrespectful to Janet."
made her case public Thursday on the eve of Christie Todd Whitman's
departure as the EPA administrator. She acknowledged she had major
complaints about the environmental record of the Bush administration
under Whitman, which is why she quit her EPA job. Also Thursday,
Whitman's deputy Linda Fisher - a former Monsanto employee who had
removed herself from the Anniston case - announced she was stepping
or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used as an insulator in electrical
transformers when manufactured at the Anniston plant by Monsanto
from 1935 to 1971. Later they were suspected of being a cause of
cancer and other illnesses and were banned by the government. Solutia
was spun off from Monsanto in 1997.
came forward at the urging of the Environmental Working Group, a
Washington watchdog that contends pressure from the chemical companies
forced the Bush administration to seek a better deal for them and
a worse deal for the Anniston community.
almost like having the fox guard the chicken coop," MacGillivray
officials have said their regional office, not Whitman, negotiated
the consent decree. Last week, EWG released a heavily redacted agenda
that showed Whitman was briefed on the matter 10 days after a jury
found Monsanto, Solutia and Pharmacia liable and seven days before
the agreement was signed.
looks a whole lot more like coordinated, interagency efforts to
ram through a giveaway to a very large, powerful, politically active
polluter," EWG spokesman Mike Casey said.