In July, the Independent published the story of Dr. Gerry Henningsen, Gordon Sullivan, Abe Troyer and Clinton Maynard. The four men, who have been deeply involved with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) cleanup of asbestos contamination in Libby, said a report by EPA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigator Cory Rumple confirms their belief that the EPA is hiding the possibility that Libby is still contaminated, and still dangerous, in part because the agency has never bothered to study the type of asbestos specific to that town.
The OIG told us it could not “confirm or deny the existence” of that report, despite there being an official number attached to the document and four men who say they talked directly with the investigator about it.
In our story, we noted that Sen. Conrad Burns had sent a letter to OIG Acting Inspector General Bill Roderick asking him to clarify whether or not the report exists and when its contents might be made available to the public.
On Aug. 7, Burns received a response from Roderick, which read, “Contrary to what you have been told by your constituents, I can assure you that we have not issued any public reports on remediation efforts in Libby.”
The OIG appears to be playing language games here. No one has ever asked for a public report. The problem with the report is that it is not public. And if the report never existed, why was the Independent not simply told that, point blank, when we first requested it?
Asked if the letter marked the end of the senator’s quest for Rumple’s report, Burns spokesperson James Pendleton replied, “There is no report.”
On Aug. 23, Sen. Max Baucus sent his own letter to Bill Roderick. That letter asked the OIG to investigate claims made by Henningsen, Sullivan, Troyer and Maynard, without attributing those claims to the four men or asking for Rumple’s report.
Although he’s apparently reading our paper (hi, Max!) Baucus’ office, as usual, did not return calls seeking comment.
If the report does exist—and whatever the EPA is calling it, it clearly does—then it would appear that an agency that’s already stonewalled reporters and senators alike on the results of its investigation is being offered a chance to re-conduct an investigation it’s already carried out, then buried. Will the results be any different the second time around? At press time, the Independent can neither confirm nor deny it. What we can report is that Rumple, non-author of the agency’s non-report, recently announced to us his intention to resign at the end of August. Perhaps not surprisingly, he declined to discuss his reasons.