February 01, 2005

Crapo: EPA Ombudsman Report Raises More Questions Than Answers

Senator plans NAS appearance in Wallace next month

Washington, DC - A review of U.S. Environmental Agency actions in a cleanup of Idahoâ??s Coeur dâ??Alene Basin by a reconstituted EPA Ombudsman â??raises more questions that it provides in answers,â?? according to Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, who oversees EPA actions in his role on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Crapo noted the report released today differs substantially from a draft released in 2001 by former EPA ombudsman workers, and misses the mark because it fails to reflect the public input the ombudsman office was founded to research as an independent review body.â??The review released today notes local input is important. It correctly reinforces the validity of the Coeur dâ??Alene Basin Commission,â?? Crapo said. â??Unfortunately, the report ignores much of local residentsâ?? concerns about the cleanup. It also totally misses the mark in concluding EPA was justified in expanding its Superfund area far outside the original Bunker Hill smelter area box. While local cleanup remains underway, placing Lake Coeur dâ??Alene and communities downstream under the mantra of Superfund still rings of federal command and control. It appears that now more than ever, we need the independent, watchdog oversight a truly independent ombudsman can bring to projects like this one.â?? Crapo authored federal legislation seeking to maintain the independence of the EPA Ombudsmanâ??s office which passed the U.S. Senate and helped craft the process establishing the locally driven Basin Commission. But he noted earlier ombudsman reports, past GAO findings, and public testimony all appear to run counter to much of what is contained in the new ombudsman report. â??I was there. The public testimony collected in public hearings four years ago by the former members of the EPA Ombudsmanâ??s office does not match the findings contained in the report released today,â?? Crapo noted. â??I also question how this ombudsmanâ??s report fails to credit the Lake Coeur dâ??Alene Monitoring Plan with efforts to improve water quality in the region. In this regard, they didnâ??t just miss the boat; they missed the whole lake.â?? Crapo is scheduled to testify next month before a National Academy of Sciences Review of the Coeur dâ??Alene Basin cleanup. Tentative plans call for him to address an NAS review panel April 15th in Wallace.# # #