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Letter to Vice President Al Gore:
See you in New Hampshire

    

January 27, 2000

Vice President Albert Gore, Jr.
Old Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20501

Dear Vice President Gore,

Since we delivered our January 6th letter to you asking for a meeting in Washington at the end of this month, we have received no official response. After repeated phone calls to your office, we were told that you will not be in Washington, DC for the rest of January due to your Presidential campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire.

As you know, we have been requesting meetings with you regarding the WTI incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio since 1992. We know you are busy; therefore for your convenience, we have decided to send a delegation to New Hampshire to meet with you before the February 1st Presidential Primary. In that meeting we will show you why, now more than ever, it is necessary to honor your 1992 commitment to stop WTI.

A meeting at this time is especially important to correct misleading statements that you and your staff have recently made regarding the authority of the EPA to stop WTI (New York Times, January 13, 2000). In particular, your staff claimed that your Administration "looked exhaustively" into WTI and could not prove that WTI "violated health and safety standards." In addition, you personally told citizens at a December 13, 1999 Cleveland campaign stop that your Administration was "legally obligated" by past decisions made by the Bush Administration to approve WTI.

However, these explanations are inconsistent with the actions of your administration immediately after taking office in January, 1992. A few examples below, should help to clarify this:

  1. After making your first post-election commitment on the environment to "not issue [WTI's] test burn permit" on December 7, 1992 (reported on the same day in the New York Times), your transition team failed to formally communicate this position to the EPA, according to outgoing EPA Administrator William Reilly and other EPA officials. To the contrary, the EPA was instructed by your transition team to proceed with its plans to approve WTI's test permit.
  2. Within days after taking office, the Clinton-Gore EPA and Justice Department defended WTI in Federal Court by formally opposing a temporary restraining order (TRO) against WTI. The Administration was overruled by Federal District Court Judge Ann Aldrich, who issued a TRO in March on behalf of the opponents of WTI. Aldrich relied on EPA's own hazard assessments to determine that WTI was too dangerous to operate for even one year. Joy Allison, a plaintiff who was identified as the "maximally exposed individual" in this case, died of cancer in June of 1998, blaming WTI for her illness. She was 55 years old.
  3. Four years later in 1997, the EPA completed an assessment of WTI which identified 27 different accident scenarios that could harm or kill children at the East Elementary School, located 1,100 feet from the incinerator. However, the EPA did not consider the impact of these same accident scenarios on the children whose homes are 320 feet from WTI. Nor did they include the possibility of trucking accidents involving any of the 20 trucks that deliver toxic waste to be burned at WTI each day.

    Since WTI began operation in 1993, there have been 34 fires, 5 explosions (one of which caused $100,000 of damage), 27 release incidents and constant complaints from the community about noxious odors and suspicious plumes of smoke. In addition, the levels of mercury in the urine of local children show significant increases since WTI began operation.
  4. In September, 1994 the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued its report confirming that, "Under EPA's regulations, the grounds for terminating a permit include noncompliance by the permittee with any condition of the permit." They also concluded, "Thus the grounds for terminating WTI's permit or imposing a penalty were present, and EPA could have taken either action or both." In addition, the Ohio and West Virginia Attorneys General and the City of Pittsburgh's Solicitor also argued that the EPA had the authority to revoke WTI's permit. However, the EPA chose to merely fine WTI $64,900.
  5. The Akron Beacon Journal ran an investigative series in 1997-99 exposing scandals involving WTI. The Journal documented the tampering of pollution monitoring equipment AND named North Ohio Valley Air Authority (NOVAA) employees who were receiving payments directly from WTI. Some of the pollution monitoring irregularities dated back to WTI's 1993 "trial burn" and data used in EPA's risk assessment. One of the air monitoring violations resulted in a $126,000 fine to WTI.
  6. The EPA's current unwillingness to renew WTI's operator's permit, which expired in 1995, indicates lingering concern about this troubled facility. And as you know, just four months after WTI was issued its original permit it became illegal in Ohio to site an incinerator within 2,000 feet of a school. Virtually all experts at EPA agree with the wisdom of such a policy.

    In fact, in May of 1997, the EPA issued new hazardous waste facility siting criteria. WTI fits 5 out of eight locations determined by the EPA to be inappropriate for the siting of any hazardous waste management facility. In the meantime it continues to burn more than 150,000 tons of toxic waste a year, all on an "interim status" permit. In addition it is allowed to release 4.4 million pounds of heavy metals, such as lead, into the air each year.

In New Hampshire we can discuss in greater detail how you can keep your promise on WTI and protect the children of East Liverpool, Ohio.

Sincerely,

Terri Swearingen, Tri-State Environmental Council
Chester, West Virginia
(304) 387-0587

Rick Hind, Greenpeace
Washington, DC
(202) 319-2445

Martin Sheen
Malibu, California

Alonzo Spencer, Save Our County
East Liverpool, Ohio
(330) 385-4584

Jennifer O'Donnell, Ohio Citizen Action
Akron, Ohio
(330) 375-5277

Lois Gibbs, Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Arlington, Virginia
(703) 237-2249

Leslie Kusic, SOS
Wheeling, West Virginia
(304) 242-9240

Dr. Paul Connett, Professor of Chemistry, St. Lawrence University
Canton, NY 13617

Ellen Connett, Editor, Waste Not
82 Judson Street
Canton, NY 13617

Peter Montague, Editor, Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly
Annapolis, Maryland
(410) 263-1584

Maria Pellerano, Associate Director, Environmental Research Foundation
Annapolis, Maryland
(410) 263-1584

Bruce Cornett, Greene Environmental Network
Yellow Springs, Ohio
(937) 767-5000

Teresa Mills, Buckeye Environmental Network
Athens, Ohio
(614) 871-1353

Dianne Bady, Director, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Proctorville, Ohio
(740) 886-5796 or (304) 522-0246

Laurie Valeriano, Policy Director, Washington Toxics Coalition
Seattle, Washington

Mike Fremont, Rivers Unlimited
Cincinnati, Ohio
(513) 771-5087

Vicki Deisner, Ohio Environmental Council
Columbus, Ohio
(614) 487-7506

Marilyn Wall, Ohio Sierra Club
Cincinnati, Ohio
(513) 761-4003

Will Everett, Toxics Action Center
Portland, ME
(207) 871-1810

Matt Wilson, Director, Toxics Action Center
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 292-4821

Merc Pittinos, Program Director, Toxics Action Center
West Hartford, CT
(860) 233-7623

Kevin Snape, Clean Air Conservancy
Cleveland, Ohio
(216) 932-8999

Dr. Ted Schettler, Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility
Boston, Massachusetts

Michael Mariotte, Executive Director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Washington, DC

Brent Baeslack, Chairman, The Haverhill Environmental League
Haverhill, MA 01835

Ed Meagher, Co-chairperson, People for the Environment
North Andover, Massachusetts
(978) 794-3704

John Tuhill, New Hampshire State Representative
Acworth, New Hampshire

Katie Lojoie, Working On Waste
Claremont, New Hampshire
(603) 675-5486