Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers
 
 

 
Florence Daily Times
26 June 2003

Former EPA attorney says Justice lawyer asked her to keep mum

By JEFFREY McMURRAY
Associated Press Writer

A former Environmental Protection Agency attorney said Thursday she was pressured not to testify about her concerns with an agreement that could save chemical companies hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs for the PCB pollution of Anniston, Ala.

Janet MacGillivray, formerly a Superfund attorney who focused on the case of New Jersey's Hudson River, said a high-ranking EPA official told her Anniston didn't make a list of national cleanup priorities because Monsanto, one of the companies found liable, didn't want it listed.

Instead, the federal government took over and imposed a consent decree that mandated a federal study rather than the more extensive and immediate cleanup sought by the Anniston community and was expected to be ordered by a state judge.

Before a court hearing on the consent decree, MacGillivray said she got several calls from Bill Weinischke, the lead Department of Justice attorney in the case, suggesting she shouldn't testify.

"I felt intimidated," said MacGillivray, who is now a senior attorney for Riverkeeper Inc., a Garrison, N.Y.-based environmental group. "I felt this was so inappropriate for an attorney to be calling me repeatedly, giving me various reasons as to why I would be doing something I shouldn't be. It was just an intense feeling of pressure, and it made me feel tremendously uncomfortable."

After spending the weekend thinking it over, MacGillivray decided to testify in the hearing last January.

A transcript of her testimony shows she told the judge about Weinischke's calls and said he suggested she would be doing a "disservice" to the Anniston community and doubted her employer would approve. MacGillivray said she had already received approval from Riverkeeper to testify.

Justice Department spokesman Blain Rethmeier said the matter was a misunderstanding and that Weinischke didn't try to discourage MacGillivray from appearing in court. However, Rethmeier acknowledged that Weinischke warned her that her comments could delay the cleanup.

"Bill is an attorney with 15 to 20 years experience working on these cases," Rethmeier said. "He's a seasoned attorney who has a long list of accomplishments and is respected in the Superfund community. It's not like this guy was trying to be disrespectful to Janet."

MacGillivray made her case public Thursday on the eve of Christie Todd Whitman's departure as the EPA administrator. She acknowledged she had major complaints about the environmental record of the Bush administration under Whitman, which is why she quit her EPA job. Also Thursday, Whitman's deputy Linda Fisher - a former Monsanto employee who had removed herself from the Anniston case - announced she was stepping down.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used as an insulator in electrical transformers when manufactured at the Anniston plant by Monsanto from 1935 to 1971. Later they were suspected of being a cause of cancer and other illnesses and were banned by the government. Solutia was spun off from Monsanto in 1997.

MacGillivray came forward at the urging of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington watchdog that contends pressure from the chemical companies forced the Bush administration to seek a better deal for them and a worse deal for the Anniston community.

"It's almost like having the fox guard the chicken coop," MacGillivray said.

EPA officials have said their regional office, not Whitman, negotiated the consent decree. Last week, EWG released a heavily redacted agenda that showed Whitman was briefed on the matter 10 days after a jury found Monsanto, Solutia and Pharmacia liable and seven days before the agreement was signed.

"It looks a whole lot more like coordinated, interagency efforts to ram through a giveaway to a very large, powerful, politically active polluter," EWG spokesman Mike Casey said.

 
   
   

 

 

 

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