WASHINGTON — The former head of the Environmental Protection Agency is balking at a request by Rep. Jerrold Nadler that she testify before a congressional hearing on the federal response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator at the time, has declined an invitation to appear before a House subcommittee that Mr. Nadler chairs, an aide to the congressman said yesterday. Mr. Nadler, whose district includes ground zero, is expected to ask Ms. Whitman again before considering whether to seek to compel her testimony with a subpoena, the aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Mr. Nadler and Senator Clinton yesterday announced companion hearings to investigate what they say was the government's failure to respond adequately to the environmental crisis in Lower Manhattan that resulted from the attack on the World Trade Center. Mr. Nadler's hearing is scheduled for May 22; Mrs. Clinton's is set for June 20.
Ms. Whitman has come under fire from lawmakers over the years for saying the air near ground zero was safe to breathe in the weeks following September 11. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Nadler have also faulted the EPA for insufficiently testing and cleaning buildings near ground zero after the attack.
A federal appellate court last month threw out a lawsuit against Ms. Whitman, ruling that her statements about the air quality in New York were not "conscience-shocking." Ms. Whitman has repeatedly denied misleading the public about the air quality; attempts to reach her late yesterday were unsuccessful.
One person who will not be asked to testify in Congress is Mayor Giuliani, who has drawn criticism in some quarters for not insisting more forcefully that workers at ground zero wear facemasks at the site. Many workers have since come down with respiratory illnesses, which studies indicate may be linked to the toxic dust at ground zero. An aide to Mrs. Clinton said yesterday that she was focusing on the federal response.
Mrs. Clinton may be leery of a congressional showdown with Mr. Giuliani, as it would likely be viewed through a political lens now that both are running for president.