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Activists want Taft to reinstate
For immediate release: August 13, 1999
Activists from Ohio and across the country, who are gathered in Columbus at an annual canvassers conference, called on Ohio Governor Robert Taft today to reinstate a whistleblower who was removed from his position at Ohio EPA. Paul Jayko, the chief investigator in the cancer-cluster case in Marion, Ohio, was removed from his position last year. After he won federal whistleblower protection from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Ohio EPA appealed the decision. A trial took place in Perrysburg, Ohio this summer, and a court decision is expected by the end of the year.
"There is strong evidence that Paul Jayko was pulled from the Marion case because he was doing too good a job helping the citizens of Marion find out what might be causing cases of leukemia in their community," said Noreen Warnock, Environmental Campaigns Director at Ohio Citizen Action. "Governor Taft should reinstate Jayko immediately, and should meet with the Concerned River Valley Families in Marion" (See Concerned River Valley Families August 11 statement).
Ohio Citizen Action, the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, Buckeye Environmental Network, Ohio Public Interest Research Group, the Tri-State Environmental Council, and other groups from across the state sent a letter to Taft telling him it is time to overhaul the Ohio EPA. "We believe there is a body of serious and convincing evidence that clearly shows it is necessary for you to distinguish yourself as the environmental leader of Ohio by making immediate and substantial changes at the Ohio EPA," the letter states.
Ohio Citizen Action also announced a toll-free whistleblower hotline number which employees of the Ohio EPA or other agencies or industries can call to report experiences or observations of agency actions which they feel violate the mission of environmental protection. People calling the number, 1-888-777-7135, will be able to discuss their observations, and be given information on actions they can take, including referrals to legal or technical help.
"Unfortunately, it's common knowledge among citizens working on environmental issues that Ohio EPA seems more concerned with protecting polluters than the public," said Terri Swearingen, a leader in the 15-year fight against the WTI hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio. Swearingen has received international recognition for her work, receiving the 19976 Goldman Environmental Award, which is given to one environmental leader on each continent. "We don't want our state to be a national embarrassment when it comes to protecting our health and safety. Governor Taft has the opportunity and the duty to change this."
Four Ohio environmental groups filed a petition last week with the U.S. EPA asking the federal agency to revoke Ohio EPA's authority to enforce environmental laws, based on the Agency's record and on the passage of two environmental secrecy laws in Ohio over the past four years. The groups issued a scathing report on the agency's failures, called "Hidden from the Public." The groups have asked the U.S. EPA to take decisive action on the petition by October 4, 1999.
The Ohio activists received support in their efforts from representatives of groups from other states attending the conference, including Indiana, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, new York, Nebraska, Michigan, and Texas. Kelly Rice, a spokesperson for Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, said, "Citizens in the Midwest are particularly concerned about the race to the bottom in environmental protection. Pollution in Ohio doesn't just stay within the state's borders."