426 River Mill Road
Jersey Shore, PA 17740
570-398-7383 (voice), 570-398-2014(fax)
Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing regarding the EPA
National Ombudsman Office
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony in connection with the June 25th hearing conducted in Washington DC. Although I was unable to attend this important hearing, I wish to provide the following testimony regarding my experiences with the National Ombudsman’s office. This testimony is submitted on behalf of three non-profit organizations which I hereby represent: GreenWatch, The Pennsylvania Environmental Network (PEN) and Arrest the Incinerator Remediation (AIR).
Our grassroots citizens group AIR saw first-hand in Lock Haven Pennsylvania, with the Drake Superfund Incinerator, how the EPA is unresponsive and evasive to those citizens who are most affected by their decisions. We have seen for ourselves how the EPA bureaucracy has repeatedly tried to prevent and interfere with the Ombudsman’s investigation at Drake and other Superfund Sites. I can tell you first hand that Mr. Martin is one of the few people in the EPA who has earned the respect, trust and admiration of AIR and other groups across Pennsylvania. Although we were unable to stop the operation of the Drake Incinerator, due to the unconstitutional language of Superfund law, Robert Martin helped us tremendously in his capacity as Ombudsman. Because of the unconstitutional provisions of Superfund law locking AIR out of federal court (Section 113H), the Ombudsman was the only place for citizens to go where someone would independently hear their grievances and investigate their allegations. Mr. Robert Martin did an excellent job trying to mediate a bad situation only to find himself in a face off against Asst. Administrator Tim Fields and hostile, unreasonable Region 3 officials, namely one Thomas Voltaggio (promoted after Drake to Asst. Regional Administrator). The Ombudsman’s recommendations and reports in the Drake case were professional, reasonable, well thought out and researched and should have resulted in, at least, a temporary shut down of operations at Drake until the issues were resolved. Officials from our state DEP even had the audacity to tell the Ombudsman that his involvement at Drake was “untimely”. Untimely indeed, I pulled empty beer cans (in bags with Drake instrument calibration documents) out of secure Drake dumpsters shortly after the Ombudsman left town. Instead of Region 3 officials admitting that their contractors were drinking beer they did damage control saying publicly that empty beer cans were not proof that the contractors were drinking while operating a hazardous waste incinerator on a Superfund Site. The Region 3 Drake operation manager, Gregg Crystall later told me that EPA should have just admitted that the contractors were drinking but he allowed their public relations machine to spin the incident anyway. Drake burned in 1998 and we understand that since then EPA Region 3 officials have been trying to burn Mr. Martin in retaliation for doing his job as Congress had intended.
During the Drake fight, in reaction to Mr. Martin’s report on Drake, we also saw EPA create the “regional ombudsman” program that we recognized immediately as a sham. The regional folks are nothing but seasoned yes men and we and others statewide and nationwide have boycotted any involvement with them. There is only one true Ombudsman, Mr. Martin. This ploy was nothing but an attempt to take away the power vested in Mr. Martin originally by Congress. Since then we have reviewed the GAO report on the National Ombudsman. The report verified our feelings that Mr. Martin did not have sufficient independence, was interfered with by EPA and that the regional “ombudsman” are compromised with tremendous conflict of interest and are far from independent. In my capacity as Executive Director of GreenWatch, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping citizens with environmental problems, I have seen the regional “ombudsman” at work. The “investigation” conducted by the Region 3 “ombudsman” in the Boyertown Bovine Site near Gilbertsville PA vindicated Region 3 officials and was insulting to us and our clients. His actions again reinforced our belief that the “regional ombudsman” program was designed to circumvent Mr. Martin’s involvement and to do damage control for the Region. We still need Mr. Martin’s help at this site as EPA Region 3 officials actually had the audacity to blame the farmers for their own dying dairy herd problems even in light of tremendous evidence of fluoride pollution from a local industry doing government contracts. While the farmers wait for the Ombudsman’s help, and for your action on legislation, they slip faster towards bankruptcy.
On January 29, 2000, I traveled to Denver Colorado to testify at an Ombudsman hearing conducted by Senator Wayne Allard. I represented many citizens and several organizations in requesting that Senator Allard move Ombudsman legislation through the Senate and eventually through Congress so that citizens nationwide could have a truly independent, well funded National Ombudsman. Too much time has passed since then and citizens now find themselves without an Ombudsman due to EPA’s attempt to transfer the Ombudsman to the Inspector General’s office resulting in Mr. Martin’s resignation. The EPA has demonstrated, on many occasions, that they cannot be trusted with allowing the Ombudsman to function independently leaving citizens with no Ombudsman to assist them. My opinions of EPA’s treatment of the National Ombudsman’s office and with EPA (Regional and National) interferences with the National Ombudsman’s office have been formed from many interactions with citizens working with Mr. Martin and his office nationwide.
AIR worked closely with the citizens in Times Beach Missouri and learned how EPA rams incinerators down citizen’s throats before the Drake Incinerator came to Lock Haven. On behalf of AIR, I traveled to Times Beach to learn from the citizens fighting EPA there and personally requested involvement from Mr. Martin at that time. I witnessed the EPA regional officials treatment of citizens in Times Beach and was horrified at thinking that we were next. Mr. Martin along with the professional assistance of his investigator, Hugh Kaufman, did their best to reason with Region 3 officials regarding Drake, only to be ignored and down played. I have worked with citizens in Denver fighting the Shattuck Superfund Site and saw how they were treated by their EPA regional officials, same game different city. Again, Mr. Martin and Mr. Kaufman did their best to help against the power and deception of the region and Mr. Fields. I also assisted the citizens of McFarland California with obtaining copies of their documents that were eventually turned over to the IG’s office. I spent six hours copying thousands of pages of documents at EPA in order to preserve copies before they were confiscated by the IG’s office. Citizens feared that once the IG’s office got hold of their documents that they would be gone forever. Having no faith in the IG’s office, we believe their fears were well founded. Citizens who are members of PEN in Troop PA fighting the Marjol Battery site again learned first hand about how Region 3 officials (Voltaggio again) treat people who question their authority and tactics. The Ombudsman’s work is not done in Troop PA and citizens desperately need Mr. Martin and Mr. Kaufman back.
As I said previously, too much time has passed while citizens nationwide wait for action on legislation to fund a independent National Ombudsman office. Now we find ourselves with no place to turn for help with many situations were we desperately need the Ombudsman. I am convinced that Mr. Martin and Mr. Kaufman were targeted because of their honesty and integrity with their work on behalf of the US Congress and the American People. I would be happy to appear before any Senate Committee anytime to testify about our experiences with Mr. Martin, his office and his integrity and about our negative experiences with Mr. Fields and USEPA Region 3 officials. I urge you on behalf of GreenWatch, AIR and PEN to do everything in your power to rapidly move legislation through Congress to again give the American people an independent office of National Ombudsman with Mr. Martin in charge with the power to manage his own staff and budget. The loss of the National Ombudsman office is a severe blow to our trust in our elected officials who ultimately bear the responsibility for the loss of our National Ombudsman. Please give us the National Ombudsman that was originally intended. While you wait and deliberate citizens suffer from the lies and deception of corrupt regional and national EPA officials who enjoy impunity from their fowl actions. Time is of the essence; please give us back our Ombudsman, Mr. Robert Martin. We have lots of work for him to do before it is too late.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to give testimony on this very important issue.
William A. Smedley
Executive Director, GreenWatch Inc.
Board Member, PEN
Chairman Legal Committee, AIR