UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460
January 14, 1993
Mrs. Terri Swearingin
Tri-State Environmental Council
R.D. 1, Box 365
Chester, WV 26034
Dear Mrs. Swearingen:
Per your request, I have reviewed the September 21, 1992 GAO letter report on their investigation of the WTI incinerator and I have prepared the following comments.
I found that the original request by Congress to the GAO to be wide of the mark since it addresses only the current state-of-affairs, whereas my concern has been with the corrupt practices which have led up to the current state-of-affairs.
GAO did not investigate any of the evidence of corruption such as lawbreaking, lying, fraud, and conspiracy which you and I and others have brought forward concerning the siting and permitting of WTI. This cannot be completely excused by the fact that they were not explicitly charged by Congress to do so.
On page 8 of the GAO letter report it states that they have examined documents from, among others, your own Tri-State Environmental Council. You have assured me that among these documents was my letter of May 15, 1992 to the EPA Inspector General as well as other documents producing evidence of corrupt practices in the matter of WTI by EPA's Region V and the Ohio EPA.
Nevertheless, GAO proceeded as if they were unaware of these accusations. The investigators accepted, without verification, the word and the assurances of persons accused of lying and other corrupt practices in documents in their possession which they had examined. And, furthermore, they did not attempt to interview the accusers.
For example on page 8, the report states:In May 1992 an EPA Region V official stated that, while EPA currently requires the land owner to co-sign the permit application and any final permit for a hazardous waste facility, this stricter interpretation of the regulations was not common practice in 1983.In spite of documents in their possession questioning the above, no attempt was made by GAO to verify the assertions of the Region V official. GAO also had in its possession a letter from the Region V Administrator to
Sen. Rockefeller which gave a very different account of the same event. GAO also had in its possession a 1983 memo from EPA headquarters reminding the regional office of the requirement to have the land owners signature on the permit application. Yet Region V did not comply with the requirement until the deficiency was discovered by the public in 1991, and then the Regional office tried to evade the requirement by placing the name of the land owner on the permit without his consent, an act that was ruled illegal by an EPA administrative law judge in a 1992 document which the GAO should also have had in its possession.
Another example appears on page 6 were the report states:EPA concluded that no adverse health effects would be expected from the operation of the incinerator with the spray dryer.GAO had in its possession testimony by experts which challenged EPA's conclusion, yet GAO accepted EPA's conclusions without any further investigation. Furthermore, this was done in spite of documents in their possession which accused EPA of corrupt intent.
An even more unexplainable acceptance of EPA's word is found on the same page:EPA stated, however, that the screening document predicts that the concentration of lead in the ambient air could slightly exceed the regulatory standard. But EPA also stated that this standard is well below a level of concern for health [emphasis added].If EPA does not base its standards on a concern for health then what on earth are they based on!
I could go through the entire report in the same vein but I think I have made my point. It might be more profitable if I were to point out the specific acts, the sum of which leads me to believe that the process of issuing a permit to WTI was corrupt, so that it is on the record for any future investigator to see.
- In 1983, all EPA regional offices were reminded by a memo from EPA headquarters that the law requires the land owner's signature on hazardous waste permit applications.
- Seven days later, in violation of federal law, Region V issued a permit to WTI based on an incomplete application which did not contain the signature of the land owner.
- In 1985 regional offices are again notified of the need to have the land owner's signature on hazardous waste permit applications. Nevertheless, Region V makes no attempt to comply, even though, as Region V officials later admitted, they were aware of the deficiency.
- In 1991, when citizens discovered the fact that the land owner had not signed the permit application, the EPA Region V administrator wrote to a United States senator that EPA policy at the time the permit was issued in 1982 did not require the land owner's signature. In 1992 the EPA Environmental Appeals Board found that the above explanation was not true.
- Only after the citizens brought this issue to the attention of Congress did EPA Region V move to get the land owner to sign the permit application. When the land owner refused to sign, EPA simply added his name to the permit without his permission.
In justifying it's action, EPA Region V General Counsel's office wrote an opinion which cited two previous cases before the EPA Environmental Appeals Board as precedents. On reading these cases, however, they turn out to be completely irrelevant.
Simultaneously, Region V ignored a real precedent. EPA Region IX had denied a permit to a facility because the land owner refused to sign the application.
The 1992 EPA Environmental Appeals Board decision previously cited also found that EPA could not simply add the land owner's name to the application without his permission.
EPA conspired secretly with WTI in 1992 to arrange for WTI to purchase the land from the Columbiana County Port Authority so as to legitimatize the EPA permit.
The division director in EPA Region V who supervises the issuance of hazardous waste permits has said that he considers the hazardous waste permit holders (rather than the public) to be his constituents.
In 1982, EPA Region V air office wrote that the WTI permit is invalid because WTI would be major source of air pollution in a "non-attainment" area and there is a construction ban on new major sources.
With EPA's connivance but without public knowledge or participation, WTI's projected air emission calculations in its permit application were adjusted so that WTI's projected emissions fell just below the threshold of being a major source.
In 1987 the EPA Region V air office wrote that WTI had illegally avoided the construction ban by changing to a minor source and that they did not have a valid permit. The warning was repeated again in 1991 by the Region V air enforcement office.
The U.S. EPA conspired with the Ohio EPA and WTI in 1989 to see to it that WTI permit revisions were treated as minor revisions in order, in their own words, to avoid public scrutiny and the resultant delays. This was done over the objections of the Ohio EPA's legal department.
By treating all WTI permit changes as minor revisions, the U.S. and Ohio environmental protection agencies were conspiring to avoid having WTI comply with the more stringent state environmental protection laws passed after the WTI permit was issued.
In 1991 EPA withheld two thirds of the WTI file requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The material was subsequently released on appeal.
A 1992 letter from Region V states that instances of air stagnation are rare in the area of WTI. An academic expert using U.S. government data showed the opposite to be true.
Until prodded by citizen activists, EPA had shown no interest in who actually owns and operates WTI and whether they are financially responsible.
EPA Associate Administrator Lew Crampton, assigned to be the "community liaison" between EPA and citizens concerned with WTI, left EPA in 1992 to work for the hazardous waste management industry.
At a trial held in West Virginia where the state was suing WTI to block their permit, EPA allowed EPA employees to testify as expert witnesses on behalf of WTI but forbade other EPA employees from testifying as expert witnesses on behalf of the state.In conclusion, I believe it is futile, at this late stage, to send a lot of people out investigating whether every "i" has been dotted and "t" crossed in the WTI permit. For years you and your colleagues have been addressing irregularities in EPA's handling of WTI and by now most or all of those irregularities have probably been corrected. I think it is far more important to investigate the process rather than the result of the process. The Ohio legislature authorized the purchase by eminent domain by the Columbiana County Port Authority of waterfront property in East Liverpool in 1979 for the purpose of building a river port. Before the Port Authority even acquired the land, it was leased to WTI for the purpose of building a hazardous waste incinerator. No port was ever built.
In 1992 the Port Authority sold the land (taken by eminent domain) to WTI.
The Ohio Hazardous Waste Facilities Approval Board granted a permit to WTI in 1983 despite the fact that the Board's own hearing examiner recommended the permit be denied because the application was incomplete.
If I may make an analogy, it is as if you have accused a student of cheating on an exam by pointing out irregularities in his answers. But one-by-one, as you point out the irregularities, he corrects them, so that after a while the exam paper looks correct. But that doesn't mean he didn't cheat.
cc: William Reilly, Administrator
John Martin, Inspector General
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