Laura Green, Ph.D., the toxicologist disavowed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for downplaying the risks of per- and poly-fluoralykyl substances (PFAS), resigned from her special government employee (SGE) position with the agency on Thursday.
Then she took it back.
At least two publications, including Greenwire Environmental & Energy News, which first reported EPA’s concerns with Green’s comments with regard to PFAS and synthetic turf fields like the one proposed at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, are reporting Green resigned. But that’s already old news.
Green provided her email exchange with the EPA. She sent an email Thursday morning addressed to EPA employee Tamue Gibson: “I’m very sorry to say that, by this email, I hereby resign from my appointment as an EPA SGE. I have enjoyed working with you over the years, and wish you the very best.”
Later that morning, Green received an email from Steve M. Knott, branch chief (supervisory chemist), peer review and ethics branch, asking Green to reconsider. “We are looking into the events of this week to determine what additional information we can provide to you. We hope to have a follow-up call with you very soon,” Knott wrote. “In the interim, we will honor your request to resign from your SGE appointment effective today. However, we wanted to check whether you would like to withdraw your resignation until we have a chance to talk.”
That was followed up by an email from Green withdrawing the resignation. “In deference to, and respect of, you and Tamue, I would like to hereby withdraw my resignation as an SGE,” Green wrote. “I continue to hope that you can get to the bottom of how and why I have been ‘disavowed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency’ …”
Green then linked to the story posted Thursday by The Times. She asked Knott to set up a Zoom call “to tell me what went wrong, and how we can collectively avoid this unpleasantness going forward.”
The Times asked the EPA about Green’s status, and received a cryptic response: “We don’t have a comment at this time.”
So what changed in just a few hours? In a conversation with The Times, Green said she was intent on resigning, but two things changed. “I thought, Fine, I’ll reconsider. As you might imagine, I don’t want to be defamed any more than I’ve already been defamed. It’s not worth it. I don’t care. I’d like to become a private figure again, and take my stuff out of the limelight,” she told The Times.
But ultimately Green attributed her change of heart to a conversation with her daughter and a comment by her 5-year-old grandson, who referred to the writers of the Greenwire report as “poo-poo heads.”
“They are poo-poo heads. I’m not going to resign,” Green said. “Why would I let two poo-poo heads make me leave an agency that I love working for?”
Asked about the support she has received from school officials and field proponents in the wake of the story, Green said she’s grateful for the support, but remains upset at being in the spotlight. “I’m disheartened by being the subject of a story. I just want all this b_______ to go away,” she said. “Yes, it’s nice that people have come to respect the fact that I know what I’m talking about. It’s nice that I’ve made friends on the Island.”
What’s not nice is the attention is being taken away from the field conditions at the high school.
“If I may say, the real story was told by students over months and months at these [Martha’s Vineyard Commission] meetings,” Green said. “These teenagers who said exactly what’s needed to be said: ‘The grownups aren’t doing us any favors. They should either vote for all grass or synthetic fields … The grownups are not acting like grownups’.”
She added that she believes democracy is being subverted. “The MVC voted 10-6, and that should have been the end of it,” Green said.
While the debate continues, the track and field are in bad shape. “I am disgusted. If I lived on Martha’s Vineyard, I would leave. If I had student athletes … I would move off-Island. I’m just disgusted.”
She didn’t stop there. “Why is Martha’s Vineyard so unwilling to just end it? Just do something. It’s disgusting to me,” she said. “It’s not like this booster club is trying to site a nuclear power plant. It’s a goddamned playing field. Grownups continue to put athletes’ interests below their own interests.”