In case you've forgotten, Rita Lavelle was in charge of the Superfund program at the Environmental Protection Agency. She was fired by President Reagan in February. Last week the House of Representatives voted 413 to 0 t cite her for refusing to honor a commitee subpoena. Not a single member spoke in her behalf.
No one denies that Miss Lavelle refused to obey a subpoena requiring her to appear before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on March 21. Her attorney claims she didn't show up because she wanted to review documents held by the subcommittee. But that's no excuse for a complete refusal to appear. She could always claim, and quite plausibly in such complex matters, a failure of memory about a particular question.
Adding to her problems, Energy and Commerce Chairman Jihn Dingell has requested that she be prosecuted for perjury because of her testimony last year about when she learned that her former employer, Aerojet Gereneral Corp., was involved in a hazardous waste dump in California that was subject to regulation by her division of the EPA.
We confess to a certain grudging sympathy for Miss Lavelle, who accepted a position for which she was evidently not fully qualified. Less sympathy should be available for the more experienced members of the Reagan administration who offered the position to her. Nor, by the way, does it seem so outlandish that she arranged announcements of toxic waste cleanups so as to help certain politicians.
But Congress is entitled to have Miss Lavelle testify on other, more serious matters. She is the only administrator the Superfund has had, and serious questions have been raised about whether she administered the program efficiently and according to law. Unquestionably Congress has the power to cite for contempt people who, without any good excuse, refuse to respond to its subpoenas.