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USA: Ex-EPA Head Reilly Accuses Gore of Sell-Out

U.S. Newswire
November 2nd, 2000

SEATTLE -- The following was released today by Nader 2000:

Ralph Nader urged voters concerned with the environment to reconsider support for Al Gore after testimony revealed that the Vice President had intervened in support of an environmentally unsafe incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.

Former EPA Administrator William Reilly testified on Tuesday that a top Gore aide encouraged him to issue a trial-burn permit for the WTI incinerator located in East Liverpool -- despite Gore's promises not to before the people of the Ohio River Valley.

"No issue better symbolizes Gore's environmental record than the WTI incinerator," Nader said this morning. "Gore made the sensible decision to oppose the incinerator in 1992, promised that a test-burn permit would not be issued, and then turned around and told the Bush Administration to issue the permit before he took office. For eight years, Al Gore has flat-out lied to environmentalists about his role in issuing a test-burn permit on the WTI incinerator."

Nader sent letters to Carl Pope of the Sierra Club and Brent Blackwelder of Friends of the Earth asking them to rescind their organizations' endorsements of Gore based upon Reilly's testimony.

Reilly told the EPA National Ombudsman that Kathleen McGinty, the top environmental aide to the Vice-President elect, told him in a January 6, 1993 meeting that "the Vice-President elect had second thoughts on the issue" and "would be grateful if (William Reilly) made the decision (to issue a permit) before leaving office." McGinty has testified that she does not "recall" any meetings about the incinerator. The trial-burn permit was issued on Jan. 8.

During the 1992 campaign, Al Gore called the incinerator "unbelievable," adding: "The Clinton-Gore administration is going to give you an environmental presidency to deal with these problems. We'll be on your side for a change." On Dec. 7, 1992 Gore's office issued a press release headlined: "CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION WOULD NOT ISSUE TEST BURN PERMIT." Gore has cited the Bush Administration's issuing of the trial-burn permit as the reason that the Clinton Administration could not intervene in the matter. In a March 13, 2000 interview with Pittsburgh TV station KDKA, Gore stated that his "legal ability to stop the permit was removed" because the Bush Administration issued the permit during the transition period.

In the letter to Pope and Blackwelder, Nader wrote that the incinerator is symbolic of Gore's record on environmental issues. "Even on issues where the Republican Congress cannot influence Gore's accomplishments as the head of the Administration's environmental portfolio, we see stunning failures, masked by rosy rhetoric -- take the 50 percent decline in prosecutions of environmental crime, accompanied by a startling reduction in conviction rate reported by PEER, or Gore's failure to take positions on numerous local issues, from mountaintop removal in West Virginia in Kentucky to the proposed airport bordering the Everglades."

"This marks a major betrayal of the public trust," Nader wrote, "and particularly the trust of environmentalists who have been told year after year, on issue after issue that they have a friend in the White House, even as trade agreements have passed with no environmental protection standards, the salvage rider was signed, and EPA and FDA regulation has become weaker and weaker under the rubric of reinventing government."

"Gore's actions on the WTI incinerator seriously undermine the argument that a vote for him is worthwhile simply to keep Bush out of office. For eight years, Gore's lies have prevented citizen groups from having knowledge about why the test-burn permit was passed, about whom they should be protesting. We should remember that whatever the consequence of this testimony for Gore's campaign, they do not match the consequences faced by the citizens of the Ohio River Valley, and particularly the children at the elementary school 400 yards from the smokestack."

"(Reilly's testimony) says we haven't been told the truth since the beginning," said Terri Swearingen, a citizen of Chester, West Virginia, located just across the Ohio River from East Liverpool, and a leading opponent of the WTI incinerator. "We don't really know who to trust," Swearingen stated.

The hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool burns 60,000 tons of hazardous waste every year, making it one of the largest incinerators of its type in the world, despite the fact that its permit expired in 1995. It is located in an area with a history of environmental contamination, on a flood plain, and less than 400 yards away from an elementary school, in violation of numerous state and federal environmental regulations. Among the toxic pollutants that the incinerator releases into the air are dioxins, furans, and metals such as chromium, mercury, lead, benzene and arsenic. Previous test-burns have indicated that the incinerator releases dioxins and mercury at levels far higher than those legally allowable, and a federal judge has ruled that the incinerator does not meet the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's (RCRA) standard of "imminent and substantial endangerment."

"If Gore can't stand up for the people against this outrageously dangerous polluter, should anyone believe he will ever fight for the people, and not the powerful?" Nader said in his Sept. 27 campaign visit to East Liverpool.

Nader was effusive in his praise of Terri Swearingen and the citizen movement opposing the WTI incinerator in his comments before reporters today in Seattle. "Without the consistent pressure of citizen activists applied to the Vice President, he would never have requested EPA Ombudsman to conduct his investigation. Swearingen and the many others involved in protesting the WTI incinerator should be considered local heroes for their efforts leading to the exposure of the scientific and political truths associated with this incinerator."

At a rally in Seattle today, Nader commented that "the environmentalist mask is fast falling off Al Gore's face."

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