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US appeals court rules EPA ex-chief not liable for post-9/11 air quality statements

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [PDF text] Tuesday that Christine Todd Whitman [official profile], former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website], cannot be sued for making allegedly misleading reassurances about the air quality in New York after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In 2004, residents and workers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn filed a class-action lawsuit [JURIST report; NYELJP materials] against Whitman and the EPA, arguing that people should not have been allowed to go back to the area so soon after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, which spread soot, dust and other debris for miles, and that residents and workers had their health seriously harmed as a result. Tuesday's ruling reverses a February 2006 district court ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] denying the EPA's motion to dismiss and allowing the case to proceed against Whitman personally.

The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs, alleging that the EPA issued misleading statements that the air quality was safe enough to permit return to homes, schools, and offices. Those statements attesting to the safety of the air quality were later refuted [NYELJP health studies]. AP has more.

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