February 22, 2005

Crapo and Allard Re-introduce Ombudsman Legislation

Would re-establish independent investigative office

Washington, DC - Legislation, authored by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and co-sponsored by Colorado Senator Wayne Allard, that will re-establish an independent ombudsmanâ??s office within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. The legislation would strengthen the Office of the Ombudsman by establishing an independent office within the EPA whose head would be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Ombudsman would report directly to the EPA Administrator and would have the capacity to investigate and review allegations brought by the public. Similar legislation by Crapo passed the Senate in November, but was not considered by the House of Representatives.â??Over the years, the Ombudsmanâ??s Office at the EPA gained a national reputation for helping communities in need,â?? Crapo said. â??However, its effectiveness has been significantly diminished by the lack of independence. This legislation would create an independent, accountable watchdog officeâ??the kind that was envisioned by Congress when the office was created twenty years ago. My experience with the Ombudsman in Idaho over the last few years has been positive, and communities need to be able to have such a resource when confronted with environmental cleanup issues with the EPA. This legislation will make the EPA more responsive to communities and more successful in cleanup in the long run.â??Allard said, â??This legislation will ensure that citizens have someone to turn to when they feel their concerns and questions are not being addressed by the EPA officials. For the first time, we are ensuring the EPA Ombudsmanâ??s Office can do its job free from agency interference.â??The Ombudsman office was originally established by Congress in 1984 to receive complaints and render assistance to any person regarding hazardous waste programs at the EPA. Its authorization expired in 1988, but the EPA retained the office as a matter of policy. Two General Accounting Office studies concluded that administrative changes to the office by the EPA have undermined its authority and independence. Additionally, key aspects of the Ombudsmanâ??s office were not consistent with relevant professional standards. Last year, Crapo chaired a congressional hearing on the legislation and took testimony from stakeholders and professional organizations who were opposed to EPAâ??s reorganization of the office.# # #