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Project on Government Oversight
 

 

 

 

Congressional / Citizen Oversight Forum on the need for an independent ombudsman at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

January 10, 2003 

 

WHEN: Tuesday, January 14, 2003, 9:00 A.M.

WHERE: 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building

WHO: Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Robert Martin, former EPA Ombudsman, Christine Todd Whitman, EPA Administrator (invited), Superfund Site Community Members

BACKGROUND:

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) are sponsoring a January 14, 2003 joint congressional/citizen oversight hearing on the need for an independent ombudsman at the Environmental Protection Agency. (EPA) The forum will make a record of the reality behind EPA promises last year of improved service to resolve community concerns about threats from Superfund sites and toxic wastes. A 2001 General Accounting Office (GAO) report recommended that the EPA "provide [its] Ombudsman with a separate budget and...[t]he authority to hire, fire and supervise his own staff." Instead, EPA announced it was implementing the reforms by abolishing the national ombudsman's office and reconstituting it within the agency's Office of Inspector General. (GAO) In a report last fall, GAO rejected that response as counterproductive and contrary to its recommendations.

When the Ombudsman's office was abolished, some two dozen cases were pending. At Senate and House hearings last summer EPA promised intensified efforts and improved service to affected communities as a result reorganizing the ombudsman duties. Unfortunately, citizen leaders consistently have reported that in fact the agency abandoned them, and that threats from deadly poisons in their ground and water continue unabated without any grounds for hope. The forum will allow affected communities to make a record of the reality since last summer's rhetoric. Citizens from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington will be attending.

On Congress' final day last session, the Senate approved S.606, a bill that would create by statute a structurally independent EPA national ombudsman office. Both GAP and POGO have praised it as outstanding good government legislation and a possible model for all agencies, if adopted.  


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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