Excerpts from the summary findings of the House Energy oversight subcommittee report on the Environmental Protection Agency controversy:
During 1981, 1982 and 1983, top-level officials of the Environmental Protection Agency violated their public trust by disregarding the public health and the environment, manipulating the Superfund program for political purposes, engaging in unethical conduct, and participating in other abuses.
During the 97th and 98th Congresses, the subcommittee's investigation of the implementation of the Superfund program was impeded by President Reagan's claim of executive privilege over "enforcement sensitive" Superfund documents, by EPA Administrator [Anne M.] Burford's imposition of restrictive and unlawful conditions governing subcommittee questioning of agency employes, by EPA Assistant Administrator [Rita M.] Lavelle's refusal to testify before the subcommittee, and by the unlawful removal and concealment of a trunkload of documents from EPA official files by Ms. Lavelle and members of her immediate staff. . . .
During their administration of the Superfund program, EPA Administrator Anne M. Burford and Assistant Administrator Rita M. Lavelle disregarded the public health and environment by adopting a "go slow" approach to the cleanup of toxic waste sites. On March 15, 1983, shortly after the resignation of Mrs. Burford and Ms. Lavelle, site cleanups had been completed at only five of the 419 sites designated for priority action under the Superfund Act.
Anne M. Burford and Rita M. Lavelle adopted policies which limited Superfund expenditures for site cleanups in an effort to dissuade Congress from extending, beyond the scheduled expiration date of Oct. 1, 1985, the corporate taxes supporting the Superfund . . . .
In three Superfund cases reviewed in detail by the subcommittee -- Globe, Ariz., Stringfellow Acid Pits in California, and Reilly Tar and Chemical in Minnesota -- EPA officials, including Anne M. Burford, delayed actions designed to remedy urgent hazardous waste problems. In these cases, the delays in initiating cleanup measures increased significantly the risks of adverse health effects to thousands of people . . . .
Notwithstanding important improvements in the administration of the Superfund program under EPA Administrator [William D.] Ruckelshaus, the number of remedial actions completed at Superfund priority sites remains extremely low. As of July 16, 1984, site cleanups had been completed at only six of the 546 sites designated for priority action under the Superfund Act. . . .
Rita M. Lavelle was obsessed with orchestrating activities in the Superfund program for partisan political purposes . . . . In her efforts to influence election campaigns, Ms. Lavelle circumvented established agency procedures and placed sensitive negotiations on an "election track" without regard for the consequences . . . .
White House contacts with Rita M. Lavelle, the EPA assistant administrator responsible for the Superfund program, were far more extensive then either Ms. Lavelle or White House officials have acknowledged to date.
Rita M. Lavelle testified untruthfully before the committee on Environment and Public Works of the U.S. Senate when questioned about the extent of her personal contacts with White House officials.
The White House is currently preventing the Department of Justice from providing the subcommittee on oversight and investigations with documents which directly relate to personal communications between White House officials and EPA officials, including Rita M. Lavelle.
Rita M. Lavelle violated the Environmental Protection Agency's ethical standards of conduct by actively participating in the Stringfellow case after being told pointedly that her former employer, Aerojet-General Corp., was listed as a waste discharger and possible responsible party at the site. Further, by such participation, Ms. Lavelle violated her pledge to the U.S. Senate during her confirmation hearing not to involve herself in matters relating to her prior employer.
Rita M. Lavelle filed a false statement, obstructed the oversight subcommittee's investigation, and committed perjury in testimony before the Congress in an attempt to cover up her unethical conduct in the Stringfellow case . . . .
In the fall of 1982, President Reagan asserted a sweeping and legally indefensible claim of executive privilege to bar congressional review of numerous EPA documents relating to the implementation of the Superfund Act . . . .
Documents which administration officials withheld from the Congress for as long as five months contained information indicating misconduct and political manipulation in the $1.6 billion Superfund program.
Two of the documents included in President Reagan's claim of executive privilege on Nov. 30, 1982, ultimately had a central role in the conviction of EPA Assistant Administrator Rita M. Lavelle on four felony counts in December 1983.
Two documents which were withheld from the oversight subcommittee for more than five months contained information indicating that a grant of federal funds to clean up the Stringfellow Acid Pits hazardous waste site had been manipulated for political purposes.
Throughout the fall and winter of 1982 and early 1983, high-level officials of the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House, particularly Assistant Attorney General Theodore B. Olson and EPA general counsel Robert M. Perry, misled the American people by asserting that no evidence of misconduct was contained in the Superfund documents which had been withheld from the Congress.
Administration officials sought to buttress the president's claim of executive privilege by exaggerating the sensitivity of the withheld Superfund documents. In fact:
The withheld documents were routine agency materials, many of which were written by, and for, low- and mid-level employes. One of the withheld memoranda was prepared by a temporary law clerk for a mid-level attorney.
None of the withheld documents was prepared for, or at the request of, the president or even the administrator or deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency . . . .
Not a single withheld document disclosed the name of a confidential informant, involved a criminal enforcement case, or related to foreign policy or national security matters.
Temporary contract employes, including Kelly Girls and potential defendants to federal enforcement actions had access to some of the Superfund documents which were withheld from members of Congress . . . .
President Reagan, EPA Administrator Burford, and EPA general counsel Perry failed to read any of the withheld documents before the president asserted his claim of executive privilege . . . .