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Federal judge slams former EPA head over post-9/11 air quality statements

[JURIST] US District Judge Deborah A. Batts on Thursday denied a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit against former Environmental Protection Agency [official website] head Christine Todd Whitman [official profile], saying her reassurances about the air quality in New York after the September 11 attacks "shock[] the conscience." The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project [advocacy website] brought the lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in 2004 against the EPA and its officials on behalf of residents, students and workers of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn who were exposed to hazardous material from the September 11 attacks after being reassured by the EPA that the area was safe [EPA press release]. In her opinion [PDF text], Batts refused to grant Whitman immunity in the case, allowing the case against Whitman and the EPA to proceed to trial against the objections of the EPA. Though two of the four civil claims against the agency were dismissed, the judge found that Ms. Whitman made "deliberate and misleading statements" in the days following the September 11 attacks. Statements made by Whitman and other EPA officials attesting to the safety of the air quality were later refuted [NYELJP health studies]. AP has more.

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