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If any individual deserves credit for getting Libby’s asbestos Superfund cleanup out of neutral and into gear, (although possibly still spinning its wheels) it’s Cory Rumple.

As an agent with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General (IG), Rumple investigated minor complaints of criminal conduct at the Libby Superfund site when, in March of 2006, a few Libby activists—Gerry Henningsen, Gordon Sullivan, Clinton Maynard and Abe Troyer—started tugging on his sleeve, steering him toward problems with the cleanup as a whole.

Rumple listened, investigated, and authored a report bolstering the complaints he’d heard, claiming that the EPA, despite seven years and $110 million dollars spent on cleanup, had no way of knowing if its work was effective, because it had not adopted a toxicity study on the specific form of asbestos particular to Libby.

After Rumple completed his report, the IG refused to acknowledge its existence, despite a Freedom of Information Act request by the Independent.

Stories in the Independent revealed the report’s existence to the wider public, and, with pressure from the offices of Sen. Max Baucus and former Sen. Conrad Burns, the IG admitted in October of 2006 that the report in fact existed. Under persistent pressure, the IG finally released a report in December echoing the findings presumably included in Rumple’s initial draft.

Imagine the surprise in Libby, then, when the IG team that doctored the December version of the report for public consumption received the Presidential Council on Integrity and Efficiency award this month, a prestigious honor given to employees at federal Inspector General offices.

Two asbestos activists, including Henningsen and Terry Trent have written letters to Sen. Baucus decrying the undeserved recognition.

The award winners, Henningsen writes, “had minor or essentially no meaningful roles to merit such a prestigious award.”

“Meanwhile,” he continues, “The main author and contributor to the excellent work cited in this award nomination was omitted as a co-awardee.”

Henningsen asks Baucus to pressure the IG committee that awards the PCIE to retract it and give it to Rumple instead.

For now, Baucus has sidestepped the controversy. His spokesman, Barrett Kaiser, in an email to the Independent, wrote, “Right now, the focus should be on the work that the IG has yet to do… Max wants to get to the bottom of why the EPA quashed the toxicity studies in the first place.”
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