Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chuck lashes 9/11 fund; 'Stingy' firm slighting heroes, he sez, while Hil takes aim at EPA's 'secrets'

NY Daily News
Chuck lashes 9/11 fund
'Stingy' firm slighting heroes, he sez, while Hil takes aim at EPA's 'secrets'

Show some compassion to ailing Ground Zero heroes - and stop acting like a "stingy, bottom-line-obsessed corporation."

That was the message from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to the WTC Captive Insurance Co. yesterday after the Daily News reported that the city entity was fighting first responders - instead of compensating them for their illnesses.

Schumer's angry broadside came as Sen. Hillary Clinton and two New York legislators - spurred on by another report by The News - asked the feds to expand their ongoing probe of the Environmental Protection Agency's response to 9/11.

"No one, including myself, involved with the establishment of this fund expected it to behave like a stingy, bottom-line obsessed corporation," Schumer wrote to insurance company CEO Christine LaSala.

Schumer said WTC Captive was set up with $1 billion in federal funds after 9/11 not just to insure New York City, but to "ensure coverage for the nearly 40,000 workers who gave of themselves at Ground Zero."

But city officials and WTC Captive insisted that the company was created as an insurance fund, not a compensation fund.

In a statement, the city Law Department said, "While the city had urged Congress, and continues to do so, to pass legislation that would compensate all WTC workers who were injured - as was done through the Victim Compensation Fund - that legislation was not enacted.

"Instead, Congress created an insurance fund and the Captive Insurance Company is obligated to defend all claims that have a reasonable and valid defense."

Meanwhile, Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, both Manhattan Democrats, asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to focus on documents relating to the EPA's role after 9/11 that were classified as secret.

The News reported last week that the White House gave then-EPA chief Christie Whitman the power to hide potentially embarrassing paperwork in 2002 - after the EPA was accused of downplaying the dangers at Ground Zero.

Whitman, who resigned as EPA chief in May 2003, insisted yesterday, "The EPA consistently put out all available information as to the air quality surrounding Ground Zero and lower Manhattan."

The executive order, Whitman added, "was designed to prevent terrorists from identifying chemical sites around the country."

The fresh demands for answers by New York's leading politicians came after a series of damning Daily News editorials that detailed the plight of 12,000 ailing Ground Zero workers.