Christie Whitman, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, yesterday rejected as “completely inaccurate” a federal judge’s ruling that found she had misled people near the World Trade Center site about the risks of air contamination after the Sept. 11 attack.
“Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.” – Christie Todd Whitman
In a statement, Mrs. Whitman disputed the ruling on Thursday by Judge Deborah A. Batts of Federal District Court in Manhattan. Judge Batts decided not to dismiss a class-action suit against Mrs. Whitman and the E.P.A. on behalf of residents and schoolchildren from the area near ground zero, finding that Mrs. Whitman had falsely reassured them in the days after the attack that the air was not dangerously polluted. Judge Batts concluded that Mrs. Whitman was not entitled to immunity as a government official.
But Mrs. Whitman said: “I firmly believe that the agency’s findings that the air quality was safe were correct. Every action taken by the E.P.A. during the response to this horrific event was designed to provide the most comprehensive protection and the most accurate information to the residents of Manhattan.”
In coincidence, another judge in the same courthouse issued a ruling on Thursday in a separate but almost identical case against Mrs. Whitman and the agency ? and he reached the opposite conclusion.
After a hearing late Thursday, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein dismissed the suit in his court, accepting virtually the same arguments by Justice Department lawyers that Judge Batts had rejected. Judge Hellerstein was convinced that Mrs. Whitman should be immune.
The lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the second case said he would appeal, and Mrs. Whitman said she expected the Justice Department to appeal Judge Batts’s ruling. A department spokesman, said lawyers there were reviewing that ruling.
(c) 2006 nytimes.com
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