February 23, 2005

Senate Committee Again Approves Crapoâ??s EPA Ombudsman Bill

Senatorâ??s bill maintains citizen oversight of EPA actions

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapoâ??s efforts to establish a permanent and independent ombudsman to oversee activities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today won approval from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the same committee that approved a similar bill last session. The full Senate followed suit in passing Crapoâ??s ombudsman bill last year, but the 107th Congress ended before the House could consider the bill.â??An ombudsman is more than just an accountant. An ombudsman is a link to our communities and a last recourse for many who cannot find assistance with their grievances,â?? Crapo said in remarks during committee discussion of the bill, S. 515. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who has merged the present ombudsman into the EPA Inspector Generalâ??s office, does not support Crapoâ??s ombudsman proposal. That office has yet to issue a full review of EPA actions in Idahoâ??s Coeur dâ??Alene Basin, which was planned before the former ombudsmanâ??s office was dissolved.Crapo noted his ideas for a more independent ombudsman mirror the suggestions of the General Accounting Office (GAO), the United States Ombudsman Association, and the American Bar Association. Crapo said he appreciates the EPAâ??s hopes the internal Inspector Generalâ??s office can handle the workload of the ombudsman, but he said the public and the agency would be better served in the long run with a truly independent office.â??I can probably speak for all my colleagues here in expressing our sincere concerns that the EPA still does not recognize the inherent importance of an advocate and watchdog within the EPA,â?? Crapo added. â??We also continue to be surprised that the agency cannot understand the distinction between and independent office and one that reports to the Inspector General. Moreover, the EPA fear of the term â??advocateâ?? for the ombudsman position and the importance of dispute mediation is disconcerting, particularly for an organization that has so many potential disagreements with the regulated communities.â?? The committee approved the Crapo bill and sent it to the Senate on a voice vote. # # #