EPA explains director’s no-show (Updated with documents)

Heavily redacted letter sheds little light as to why Jackson never visited Clyde
Tom Jackson
Mar 26, 2014
EPA officials don’t want you to know why former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson never kept her promise to visit families in Sandusky County affected by the Clyde cancer cluster.

The U.S. EPA has finally responded to a Freedom of Information Act request designed to shed light on why former administrator Lisa Jackson never kept a promise to visit Clyde.

But the EPA’s response, sent to the Sandusky Register 15 months after the request was made — and one year after an estimated completion date — sheds little light on the decision.

The document is heavily redacted, with almost all relevant information blacked out.

Warren Brown, Sandusky County administrator, is the father of Alexa Brown, 11, who died of cancer in 2009. Her death is considered part of the Clyde-area cancer cluster.

Click HERE for more Clyde Cancer Cluster coverage

Brown was given a copy of the EPA’s response to the FOIA request. He said he wasn’t surprised the EPA blacked out large portions of the document.

“It’s big government at its worst, not caring about the constituency of the people that they serve,” he said. “You just wonder what could be so damning they’d have to black it out”

Lisa Jackson was the administrator of the U.S. EPA from January 2009 to February 2013. After she left, she took a job with the Apple company in California, running the company’s environmental programs. Through a spokesman, Jackson declined a an interview request for this story.

In October 2011, Jackson wrote a letter to Warren and his wife, Wendy Brown.

“During the coming months, I will be closely following the EPA’s work in Sandusky County and I look forward to traveling to Clyde to meet with you and other community members to discuss the results of our investigation,” Jackson wrote.

The letter to the Browns doesn’t mention a date, but a U.S. EPA press statement, released on Oct. 21, 2011, stated Jackson “plans to visit Sandusky County next year when results of the investigation are available”

Jackson never responded to follow-up inquiries from the Browns or from the Sandusky Register about whether she would show up. The silence continued through 2012, when Obama won re-election largely thanks to carrying Ohio, a key swing state.

After she announced her departure from the EPA, the Register tried a documents request in an effort to find out why she never showed up or answered questions about the matter.

The Freedom of Information Act request was submitted Jan. 16, 2013. It asked for any emails written or received by Jackson or her press spokeswoman, Alisha Johnson, pertaining to a possible trip to Clyde to discuss the Clyde cancer cluster.

In February, the EPA wrote back, granting a fee waiver for the request — the newspaper would not have to pay any fees to obtain the documents. A tracking document on the EPA’s website estimated the request would be completed by March, two months after the request was completed.

After that, however, months of silence followed. Inquiries to EPA press staffers yielded nothing.

A few days ago, the Register tried again.

This time, the paper got a response from Jonathan Newton, an EPA attorney. Newton apologized, saying somehow the matter had been overlooked. He sent the EPA’s response letter and the EPA documents.

The response letter, dated Aug. 12, 2013, and written by Eric Wachter, stated: “We conducted a search and located responsive records. Upon review, the EPA determined that portions of the records are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to FOIA Exemption 5, 5 U.S.C. which protects the deliberative process. The records are being released to you with corresponding redactions”

The heavily-redacted document does document that the Sandusky Register repeatedly asked if and when Jackson would show up.

Numerous emails show Josh Singer, the EPA’s regional spokesman, asking officials in Washington what he’s allowed to say in response to the inquiries.

The emails show at one point, Susan Hedman, an EPA regional administrator, drafted a response for Jackson’s signature, apparently explaining herself. The letter apparently was never sent, and the response was blacked out.

After Jackson left, President Barack Obama appointed Gina McCarthy as the EPA’s new chief. After the Senate confirmed McCarthy, the Browns’ attorney, Alan Mortensen, wrote to McCarthy on Sept. 3, 2013. Mortensen reminded McCarthy of Jackson’s promise to come to Clyde and asked McCarthy to honor the promise by coming to Clyde herself.

Six months later, the Clyde cancer cluster families still have not received a response from McCarthy.

EPA Superfund director Richard Karl did send a Sept. 26 letter to Mortensen, signed by someone else, but the letter does not refer to the invitation to McCarthy. It only contained a rehash of the EPA’s efforts in Clyde.

The Associated Press reported March 16 that heavy censorship of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act has been a hallmark of the Obama administration.

“The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press” the article said.

Comments

grumpy

Your federal gov't... you get what you paid for. It is, after all, the most transparent administration ever... just ask them... you will get a heavily redacted answer... 15 months after being told one is on the way... after you keep pestering them.,, or else a no comment from their spokesperson. Don't you love big federal gov't?

The Big Dog's back

For someone who hates Gov, you should be elated.

grumpy

It is what I expect from the self described "most transparent administration ever". The bigger the gov't the further from the people it is, just more proof that the best gov't is local, then county, then state followed far down the road is federal gov't.

I have much less problem (or your so called "hate) with local gov't and much more with big federal gov't. Poor piddles wants more big gov't, we all see how well that is working out for Clyde.

Why do you love big federal gov't when all can see how they treat the people? The more local the gov't is the better it is, the further away (federal) the gov't is the worse it is, as this has aptly demonstrated... again.

holysee

Doesn't really need to be said, but here goes:
Government is run by big business.
Elections are bought by big business.
Big business owns you.
Prove me wrong, I challenge you.

grumpy

Re: "Prove me wrong, I challenge you."

Nice concept, don't prove your statement is correct, demand others to prove you wrong. It says much about your ability than others. You must not feel you have a point since you can't prove what you claim. Have a nice night.

The Big Dog's back

If it were up to you we wouldn't even have an EPA.

grumpy

Not true, but it is good that it is not up to one person, not elected to any office can do away with a part of gov't. The EPA, like much of the federal gov't, just needs to be regulated.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

It is amazing that such an organization exists that can create, enforce, and adjudicate their own unfunded mandates. Especially when nobody there is elected and they have the unlimited budget of the Federal government backing them in litigation. We truly have a "fourth branch" of the government with organizations like this.

grumpy

Tis why I said the EPA needs to be regulated. We all know that doing away with anything Gov't related... especially federal gov't related is dman near impossible.

Remember Nixon was the one who started it. He was a progressive. Even the left leaning papers and left wingnut blogs and websites think so.

https://www.progressive.org/arch...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/op...
http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/...
http://thinkprogress.org/politic...

The Big Dog's back

hz, this coming from someone who doesn't want our Senators elected.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

You are correct, I don't want them elected and for clear and directly constitutional reasons. The EPA, however, is no such body. So please locate my hypocrasy elsewhere. I'm sure it's out there!

The Big Dog's back

Nope. It's right there.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Soooo...to you the EPA (est. 12/2/1970 by a Presidential order) is exactly the same as the Senate (est. 7/16/1787 by the Framers of the Constitution)? No wonder I seem like a hypocrite - I have no idea what you are talking about nor the ability to rearrange reality. Kudos to you, you think I could do it that well working in a comic and game store!

Please explain. I must have missed something about our founding, the historical and modern role and reason of both parts of Congress, and/or what "bicameral" means.

I have my notebook out, Prof. Big Dog. Educate me.

holysee

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If you really ■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■ knowledge ■■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■ privileged ■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■'ts.
Uncontrolled peop■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■ ■■■■erous. Accep■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■d ■■■■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ better. I hope this makes everything very clear.

Contango

"In May 2013, it was announced that (former EPA administrator Lisa) Jackson would be joining Apple, Inc. as their environmental director."

The revolving door: Wall St./Washington.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lis...

OH helped Pres. Obama's re-election. He got what he wanted which is all that the loyalists should care about. :)

Presto

People should move out of Clyde immediately. That's what this story's about isn't it? No one has commented on the people living in Clyde so I will. It's kinda like the people who refuse to leave the nuclear fallout zone in Japan (Fukushima).... Years ago no one knew what was going on in Clyde (and obviously now everyone's still lying) but ALL citizens NOW KNOW what's going on in Clyde...Why in hell are people still living there?? I am serious --WHY WHY WHY??? (for that matter..why are people living in Ohio when there are so many other gorgeous places to live on earth? lol) Well of course, people live in Ohio out of habit and cause of family (etc) but how can anyone live in a community that IS KILLING THEM and ALL THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS???? If the adults in Clyde choose to subject themselves to cancer causing agents on purpose well that's their priviledge but how does anyone justify forcing their kids to live there????

holysee

How many "french drains" are out there?
It's just a basic hole in the ground with a sewer grate that are found in many garage and barn floors that yay-hoos dump down anything they feel like.
You will never know what's up with that hidden and largely unknown danger but I can guarantee your neighborhood has some if it was built before the 1980's.

KURTje

Holysee is right. Hey what about Huron County Land Fill built around/over an aquifer? Or the Old Monroeville Dump on the edge of Huron River. And yes government is by & large for big buSINess.

Dr. Information

Glad you all agree Obama is a big business lover and contributor.