Why Gina McCarthy Is Not a Good Candidate to Head the EPA
January 3, 2013
Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone
Gina McCarthy is being talked about as a possible successor to Lisa Jackson, who announced her intention to resign as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator on December 27, 2012. But critics claim President Obama should investigate McCarthy, not nominate her. According to the Mothers Milk Project, "McCarthy's record on protecting the public from known radiation hazards, from goat's milk to Fukushima, is scandalous."
(January 1, 2013 ) --Gina McCarthy is being talked about as a possible successor to Lisa Jackson, who announced her intention to resign as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator on December 27, 2012. (See The Wall Street Journal, "The Next Lisa Jackson.") Jackson will exit the post in January.
But President Obama should investigate McCarthy, not nominate her, according to the Mothers Milk Project.
"McCarthy's record on protecting the public from known radiation hazards, from goat's milk to Fukushima, is scandalous," said Burton, co-director of the Mothers Milk Project, a grassroots organization that collects human, goat and cow's milk and has it analyzed for levels of radioactivity.
"Further, her recent failure to fully disclose emails under a Freedom of Information request demands Congressional investigation," Burton asserted.
McCarthy served as chief of Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection before Obama tapped her in 2009 to become EPA's Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation.
As Commissioner of Connecticut's DEP, McCarthy defaulted on her legal responsibility to the public in favor of Millstone, the state's sole operating nuclear power plant, located near the Rhode Island border in Waterford, Burton said.
"She allowed Millstone to operate for years on an expired Clean Water Act permit, allowing Millstone to flout the federal law with routine emergency authorizations that allowed unregulated releases of a thermal plume laced with chemicals and radioisotopes onto public beaches and the Long Island Sound," Burton said.
"Millstone's illegal releases decimated an indigenous population of fish -- the Niantic River winter flounder -- when larvae were sucked into Millstone's mammoth water intake structures," Burton said.
"McCarthy had the power to uphold the public trust by stopping the illegal releases and saving the fish from extinction, but she abused her power to prop up Millstone, the worst predator of fish in the Northeast," Burton said. Burton said McCarthy was also behind a blatant whitewash of data that linked Millstone's routine venting of radioactive gases to high levels of radioactivity found in local goat milk.
Beginning in 2004, Burton called attention to high levels of strontium-90 in milk samples collected from a goat named Katie ("Katie the Goat") who grazed in a pasture located five miles northeast of Millstone.
High concentrations of strontium-90, strontium-89 and cesium-137 in Katie's milk were reported by Millstone's owner, Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., whose technicians collected Katie's milk as part of its environmental radiation monitoring program. Dominion reported the results to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Connecticut's DEP. Katie died on August 12, 2012 after being diagnosed with cancer. See www.KatieTheGoat.org.
In 2006, Burton transported Katie and two of her kids to the state capital in Hartford for a press conference to demand the Governor investigate why her milk was heavily contaminated with radiation.
Weeks later, McCarthy, as the state's highest environmental regulator, released a report absolving Millstone from any role in the high radioactivity levels found in Katie's milk. (See
"The report was a poster child for junk science," Burton said, noting that two experts in radiation came forward to debunk the report. "McCarthy's report absolved Millstone without identifying any other plausible culprit for the releases."
Strontium-90, strontium-89 and cesium-137 exposures are all associated with serious health effects, including bone and breast cancer, leukemia and diseases of the immune system, Burton said. McCarthy made a $1,000 donation to the Obama presidential campaign in 2008 (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/regina-mccarthy/gIQAgb7JAP_topic.html.)
On March 20, 2009, newly elected President Obama nominated McCarthy to serve as the federal government's top protector of the public from radiation, heading the Office of Air and Radiation as EPA in the post of EPA's Assistant Administrator.
That position put McCarthy at the pinnacle of protecting the American public from poisonous fallout from the March 11, 211 Fukushima nuclear disaster. (See EPA website: "Congress designated EPA as the primary federal agency charged with protecting people and the environment from harmful and avoidable exposure to radiation.
EPA responds to emergencies, assists in homeland security, assesses radiation risks, sets protective limits on emissions and informs people about radiation and radiation hazards." http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/oar.html; http://www.epa.gov/radiation/laws/index.html.)
McCarthy's Office of Air and Radiation operates a network of radiation monitors across the nation, a system tested as three of the Fukushima reactors exploded with core meltdowns, releasing vast quantities of radiation into the air and Pacific Ocean.
The EPA radiation monitoring effort was a debacle.
At the outset of the Fukushima nuclear emergency, one out of five monitors was inoperable, according to a scathing, but little-reported-on, audit issued on April 19, 2012 by EPA's own Inspector General, whose hand was forced to investigate by leaders of national safe energy organizations appalled by deficiencies in EPA's monitoring. (See "Weaknesses in EPA's Management of the Radiation Network System Demand Attention.")
The report is addressed to "Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation."
The IG report found 25 of EPA's 124 stationary monitors were either broken or disabled due to "relaxed quality controls," taking them out of service for an average of 130 days -- four months -- at the beginning of the Fukushima emergency.
The so-called "RadNet" system, consisting of 124 stationary monitors distributed across the United States and 40 mobile monitors, is designed to continuously sample the air for traces of radioactivity and report the data to EPA headquarters, alerting officials to unusual readings.
The monitors also serve as collecting stations for precipitation, drinking water and milk samples. The RadNet system has been identified by EPA as "critical infrastructure" for homeland security under the Patriot Act, according to Forbes Magazine. (See http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2012/04/27/inspector-general-faults-epa-radiation-monitoring/.)
EPA's Inspector General bluntly placed responsibility for the gross deficiencies in the air monitoring system with McCarthy.
"We recommend that the Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation establish and enforce expectations for RadNet operations readiness," the report states.
"EPA's RadNet program will remain vulnerable until it is managed with the urgency and priority that the Agency reports it to have to its mission," the report stated.
"If RadNet is not managed as a high-priority program, EPA may not have the needed data before, during and after a critical event such as the Japan nuclear incident," the IG warned. "Such data are crucial to determine levels of airborne radioactivity that may negatively affect public health and the environment."
McCarthy's gross failure to adequately manage the nation's radiation air monitoring network is not surprising in light of her permissive record toward Millstone..
McCarthy's name was put before President Obama as a candidate by Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and then-Senator Chris Dodd, both unapologetic fans of the nuclear industry. Neither used the word "radiation" in his letter of endorsement. (See http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=b519766a-7b4c-466f-a302-acac3ebf50c7 and http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=202b8ff9-f21a-4509-ab87-913d92f7cfcc.)
During the course of McCarthy's Senate Committee hearing on her nomination to serve as chief of EPA's Office of Air and Radiation on April 2, 2009, the word "radiation" was never uttered other than to identify the office she sought.
Ironically, on the very morning of the confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, McCarthy dispatched two Connecticut DEP attorneys to file motions in the Connecticut Superior Court to block environmentalists' emergency applications to shut Millstone's two operating reactors during the annual peak of the Niantic River winter flounder migration during the month of April to spare them from extinction, according to Burton, who brought the suit.
Burton contends that McCarthy's recent response to an FOIA request she submitted on June 13, 2012, seeking all of McCarthy's emails which concern Fukushima radiation, warrants Congressional inquiry.
McCarthy responded to Burton's FOIA request by releasing only four emails. Each deletes the name of an addressee and one deletes a portion of the content. In one, dated March 12, 2012, the name of the single addressee is redacted and McCarthy misspells "Chernobyl" as "Chernoble." ("I spoke with Lee [last name not given] and she has it all together. She indicated that at this point there doesn't seem to be a significant release and she reminded me that the US did not have to take any protective action with Chernoble -- even though that was a much more extreme situation. . . .")
"It simply strains credulity to believe that in the whole course of the 20-month, ongoing Fukushima disaster Gina McCarthy, as head of EPA's Office of Air and Radiation with responsibility for the EPA's national network of continuous air monitors, issued only four emails concerning the Fukushima radiation and none of them after March 12, 2011," Burton stated.
On December 27, 2012, Burton appealed to the EPA's FOIA office, challenging the completeness of the FOIA disclosure, the withholding of an unidentified document and redactions.
Burton also filed an additional FOIA request, seeking all emails concerning Fukushima radiation which may have been generated by McCarthy using an alias email address other than her official email@example.com address.
It came to light shortly before Lisa Jackson announced her resignation as EPA Administrator that she had created an "alias" email address other than her official email address by which she generated more than 12,000 emails in her official capacity. (See http://www.thenewamerican.com/tech/environment/item/14047-epa-chief-lisa-jackson-announces-resignation.)
EPA’s Inspector General has opened an internal investigation into the agency’s electronic records management.
Contact: Nancy Burton, NancyBurtonCT@aol.com