Senators praise, criticize EPA for Sept. 11 response

New York and New Jersey senators generally applauded the post-Sept. 11 work of EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, but Manhattan activists treated her less gently. At a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing Tuesday, Whitman and Federal Emergency Management Agency director Joe Allbaugh received praise for their response after the unprecedented suicide plane bombing disasters, especially at the World Trade Center.

Environment and Public Works Chairman James Jeffords, I-Vt., said the federal government response "went remarkably well" but wondered if EPA's new role in homeland security was taking the focus from its main mission of protecting the overall environment.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., thanked both for their efforts and concern but said air quality, environmental and other issues remain to be addressed. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., called their work "outstanding" but pointed to problems remaining, such as protecting chemical plants, saying, "There are security gaps."

Whitman said an outside, objective study she commissioned "concluded that EPA responded successfully." But she added, "We can always do better," and then gave a shopping list of steps she has taken.

"The biggest lesson learned from 9/11 is the need for Federal Emergency Management Agency and the federal government to be flexible," said Allbaugh, who added the United States must be prepared for another attack in the future.

Madelyn Wils, a Manhattan community activist and director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, was more critical, although Whitman had finished testifying and was not in the room to hear her criticism.

"In the wake of the attacks, the EPA took a back seat to the mayor's office instead of taking charge of the public health efforts," Wils said. "It was their responsibility to clean up this devastated community that lived with the dust plume, debris that invaded our homes and businesses, and the fires that continuously burned for five months."

Wils noted that EPA's initiation of indoor testing and cleaning of air in residences was applauded but "these efforts may be characterized, however, as too little too late." She said the clean-up program started enrolling people and apartments only this summer, nearly a year after the attack.

"By this time, the overwhelming majority of residents had returned to apartments cleaned unprofessionally or by workers without government oversight or scientific standards," Wils said.

Earlier in the hearing, Clinton asked Whitman to extend the Oct. 2 deadline for enrolling in the cleanup campaign, but Whitman answered indirectly, saying it was up to FEMA.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.