By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
NOVEMBER 3Ralph Nader is stepping up his attacks on Al Gore's environmental supporters, accusing the vice president of lying about his actions involving a controversial East Liverpool, Ohio, incinerator.
Nader says 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, despite Gore's promises to the people of the Ohio River valley not to do so.
"No issue better symbolizes Gore's environmental record than the WTI incinerator," Nader said. "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."
According to Reilly's testimony before the EPA ombudsman, a top environmental aide to Gore asked for the official to go ahead with the incinerator's permit before the Clinton team was inaugurated. Reilly told the ombudsman that Kathleen McGinty, the Gore aide, told him in a January 6, 1993, meeting that "the vicepresident elect had had second thoughts" on the issue and "would be grateful if (William Reilly) simply made that 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 January 8.
During the 1992 campaign, Al Gore had 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 December 7, 1992, Gore's office issued a press release headlined: "Clinton-Gore Administration Would Not Issue Test-Burn Permit."
Gore has cited the preceding Bush administration's issuing of the trial-burn permit as the reason the Clinton regime could not keep its campaign pledge to 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."
Despite the fact that its permit expired in 1995, the incinerator in East Liverpool continues to burn 60,000 tons of hazardous waste every year, making it one of the largest facilities of its type in the world. It is located on a flood plain, some 400 yards from an elementary school. Toxic pollutants released from the incinerator include dioxins, 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, but a federal judge has ruled that the incinerator does not meet the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's standard of "imminent and substantial endangerment."