230 Mount Ave.
Missoula, MT 59801
I would like to throw my support strongly behind legislation that would guarantee the independence of the office of the National EPA Ombudsman office. Although I do not live in a community that is part of a past or present Ombudsman case, I live near one (Alberton, Montana), and have followed the Ombudsman activities here and elsewhere, such as in Denver at the Shattuck site and Tarpon Springs, Florida.
Outside of the contaminated communities the Ombudsman has investigated, very few people nationwide are even aware of the existence of the Ombudsman office, much less of the impressive record of Robert Martin as Ombudsman. But contaminated communities can occur anywhere, and will continue to occur. The public deserves a voice to air reasoned complaints about EPA handling of hazardous sites, and a listening ear uninfluenced by politics, including bureaucratic politics.
There is only one thing that outrages and alarms me more than some of the revelations uncovered in Ombudsman investigations, and that is the attempt by the EPA, under both the Clinton and now the Bush administrations, to undermine the effectiveness of this watchdog office. Rather than learn from their mistakes, the EPA administration has retrenched.
A truly independent Ombudsman--at least in the United States of America--should not be directed what cases to chose or drop, should not have his budget or staff depleted at whim, should not be told he can't speak to lawmakers or the public, and should not have his files illegally seized. Please protect the health of the people and our environment by supporting legislation that would keep intact and strengthen the purpose of the EPA Ombudsman: to investigate citizen complaints about EPA activity at hazardous waste sites in an objective manner and in an atmosphere of openness and full disclosure.