Anne M. Burford, in one of her first public statements since she resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency last March, says she did nothing improper in office and has had "difficulty getting accustomed to unfounded attacks on my personal integrity."
In testimony prepared for delivery today before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Burford said: "It is difficult for me to understand how perfectly reasonable actions . . . could become distorted and then be blown up into the firestorm that brought EPA virtually to a complete halt earlier this year."
Burford denied an allegation "that I canceled a Superfund grant for the Stringfellow site in southern California, because I thought the grant would help California's former governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown win election to the United States Senate. I know this allegation is completely untrue."
Burford said she first learned "anything of substance" about the proposed $6 million cleanup grant for Stringfellow Acid Pits when she was flying to California last year to announce it at a news conference.
After reviewing briefing materials, she said, she decided to delay the grant because she questioned why California was not sharing half the cost and why no enforcement action had been taken against corporations that had deposited hazardous wastes at the dump.
She also said "there was no imminent threat to public safety or welfare," a point that California citizens' groups have disputed.
"That is all there was to the Stringfellow decision," Burford said. ". . . That is why the Justice Department investigation disclosed no evidence indicating that I held back EPA money to avoid helping Gov. Brown."
A Justice report last month, while concluding that there was "no competent evidence" that Burford held up the grant for political reasons, said there was conflicting testimony about Burford's actions.
The report said two witnesses attending a luncheon aboard a yacht in August, 1982, recalled Burford suggesting that she would delay the Stringfellow grant to avoid aiding Brown's campaign. A White House memo also reported that Burford had said, "I'll be damned if I am going to let Brown take credit for that."
Burford said she had been "prudent" in using the EPA's $1.6 billion Superfund, but conceded that critics have faulted her for moving too slowly and said "not all of this criticism is undeserved."
Burford also said she had delayed placing hazardous abandoned mining sites on the EPA's priority Superfund cleanup list because the law was unclear on that point. She acknowledged that this led to criticism that the EPA had ignored asbestos contamination at a Globe, Ariz., trailer park. The agency offered to buy out its residents after Burford resigned.
"Attempts have been made to construe my position on the mining waste issue as a case of bowing to the supposed influence of the mining industry," Burford said.
She said she found the charge "puzzling" because she did not adopt the industry's position that mining sites be excluded completely from Superfund, but had made "a cautious, incremental decision" to await further studies.
She added: "In government, one has to expect criticism of one's policies and decisions--even harsh criticism, unfair criticism. That comes with the territory." But she said she had trouble getting accustomed to what she called "baseless and unfounded allegations and innuendoes."