SENATOR JAMES M. JEFFORDS
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
HEARING ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY’S
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
JUNE 25, 2002
Good morning. The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine the functioning of the EPA’s Office of the Ombudsman. While this may be a little known office within the EPA, historically it has played an important role looking into the Agency’s handling of hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program.
It is clear to me that the Agency needs an independent, credible, and impartial Ombudsman that will respond to the needs of communities coping with complicated and sometimes life-threatening environmental problems. I for one do not want another GAO study in nine months that again finds that the Ombudsman does not have sufficient independence.
Last April, the EPA transferred the Ombudsman to the Office of the Inspector General. In reviewing the testimony of today’s witnesses, it is clear that this action has generated considerable concern. I hope that the Inspector General will detail the operating plans for the Ombudsman’s office and will let the Committee know when the office will be publicly posted and fully staffed.
As most of you know, the authorizing statute governing the activities of the Ombudsman expired some time ago. Senator Crapo has introduced a bill with Senators Specter and Allard and others that would require the Ombudsman to report directly to the Administrator of the EPA. I hope all of the witnesses will give us their comments on this piece of legislation.
As a reminder, I would request that the witnesses keep their oral remarks to five minutes so that we have time for questions and answers after each panel. Each of the witness’ written testimony will be placed in the record, and the record will be left open for followup questions and additional testimony.