This is the limit: Christie Whitman may pollute New Jersey

“Shame on you, Christie Whitman,” thundered Rep. Frank Pallone (D- Long Branch), at a Washington press conference. New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, Sen. Jon Corzine and Sen. Robert Torricelli denounced Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman’s actions against the state where she was once governor. McGreevey, Corzine and Torricelli spoke out against Whitman for generally reducing environmental protections, in accordance with George W. Bush’s wishes, and because she refused to block a decision about off-shore pollution off the coast of Sandy Hook.

According to the Democrats, Whitman’s refusal is a betrayal of New Jersey by someone who, as a shining star in the GOP constellation, once identified herself with the cause of environmental protection. In June, the EPA approved a U.S. Navy project to unload 55,000 tons of material dredged from the Earle naval base six miles from Sandy Hook. According to Mammouth County experts, these materials are contaminated with toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Scientists say materials or sewage containing more than 113 PCB particles per billion are harmful to all organisms, both human and nonhuman. The Earl naval base materials exceed that limit, with a level of 123 PCB particles per billion. These toxins are the same PCBs that the EPA ordered dredged out of the Hudson River (where General Electric deposited them there half a century ago) at the cost of a half billion dollars.

The supreme irony of this development, as the politicians emphasized, is that the EPA head is the same Whitman, who, as New Jersey governor, fought to stop the abuse of the Sandy Hook Marina. “What’s happening now is so pitiful,” McGreevey said. “She, who was once a passionate adversary of what was always known to the New Jersey population as the infamous ‘Mud Dump,’ the mountain of mud that makes Sandy Hook into a dump.” Now, pressed the governor, “here she is, publicly reversing her own position, approving the unloading of 55,000 tons at the Marina, which would directly pollute the environment with PCBs.”

Christie Whitman defended herself, claiming that, “for now, the project is still up in the air, and won’t be brought to conclusion until another case concerning dredging, now in court, is decided. However, we are specifying that scientists, not the politicians from either side, must decide. And yet, it seems to you like I am setting out to pollute our coastal waters?”

“It certainly does seem that way to us,” contested Pallone. “Was it or was it not Whitman who signed off on unloading 55,000 tons at the Marina, with 10 particles over the maximum?”

“Let’s not lose sight of other major crises,” Corzine said, “that are also at the Administrator’s door, such as the exclusion of 33 polluted sites from the Superfund, five of which are in our New Jersey — another example of the game that she is playing for Bush.”

At the end of the press conference, Torricelli censured Whitman’s support for the watered-down, Bush-supported Clear Skies program over the Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, about those 55,000 tons destined for Sandy Hook, Pallone said, “I will do my best in the Senate Committee on Finance to arrange for them to end up somewhere else, and cause less damage.”

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