Top White House Aide Defends Handling of 9/11 Air Problems


Posted: Wednesday, 20 June 2007 10:41AM

Top White House Aide Defends Handling of 9/11 Air Problems

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A top White House official on Wednesday defended the government's handling of post-Sept. 11 air contamination at ground zero.

"In all instances, federal agencies acted with the best available data at the time, and updated their communications and actions as new information was obtained,'' James Connaughton, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in prepared testimony to a Senate panel led by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton, D-N.Y., has sternly criticized the government for not doing enough to protect ground zero workers and lower Manhattan residents from the tons of toxic dust released by the collapse of the World Trade Center.

An internal government investigation found the Environmental Protection Agency offered public assurances in the days after the attacks without scientific data to back up those claims.

A report released to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by the Government Accountability Office faulted the agency's post-disaster cleanup plan for surrounding buildings.

Next week, a House panel plans to challenge then-EPA administrator Christine Whitman on her statements and actions in September 2001.