• U.S.

Environment: Fight over Sludge Starts to Get Dirty

2 minute read
Arnold Mann/Washington

Environmental Protection Agency chief CAROL BROWNER is in for an angry letter from some Congressmen this week. At issue: “serious, perhaps even illegal” behavior on the part of EPA senior scientist ALAN RUBIN, author of the 503 Sludge Rule, which declared municipal wastes safe for spreading in forests and farmlands.

What Representative JOE KNOLLENBERG (R., Mich.), House science committee chair JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R., Wis.), Senator JAMES INHOFE (R., Okla.) and others want to know is, Has Rubin been engaging in “threatening and harassing” telephone calls and e-mails to the residences of anti-sludge activists Helaine Shields, Jane Beswick and others? Did Rubin attempt to bribe a waste- treatment-company executive to get him to “refrain from raising concerns” about sludge transportation and stop insisting it be transported as hazardous waste? Has Rubin been distributing “selected, preliminary” risk data that appeared to discredit sludge-toxicity findings by EPA scientist David Lewis? The agency has come under fire for harassing its scientists who question regulations. Now the intimidation may have spread. “I must be on to something, or he wouldn’t be coming at me like this,” says California dairy farmer and anti-sludger Beswick, who got eight letters from Rubin, one accompanied by a note: “Jane: Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee!”

Rubin, contacted by TIME, denied all charges. He says he regularly sends communications to those who oppose EPA policy, not to harass or threaten but to inform.

–By Arnold Mann/Washington

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