Senator’s work could push landfill probes
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and an ombudsman from the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency are turning up the heat on federal officials to permit an investigation of a hazardous
waste site in Pennsylvania — a request that, if approved, could lead to a resumption of a probe at the
Industrial Excess Landfill in Lake Township, Ohio.
The actions by Specter, a prominent GOP senator from Pennsylvania, and EPA Ombudsman Robert J.
Martin mark the latest development in a feud between EPA officials and the ombudsman’s office.
In a letter sent to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman on Wednesday, Specter said the EPA and
the ombudsman should put aside differences and allow Martin to continue his review of a closed battery
recycling center in Throop, Pa.
As ombudsman, Martin has the authority to review EPA decisions and conduct independent investigations
at EPA-controlled toxic waste sites.
‘‘The residents of Throop ... do not deserve to be denied action on this site because of internal conflicts
between EPA and the national ombudsman program,’’ said the letter, signed by Specter and two other
Pennsylvania Republicans, Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Don Sherwood. ‘‘It is time to put aside
differences and allow ombudsman Martin to complete his investigation so remediation efforts can begin.’’
The Pennsylvania site is among 20 across the nation where Martin suspended investigations on Jan. 5
when he cited a lack of manpower. The ombudsman also stopped his probe at the Industrial Excess
Landfill, a 30-acre Superfund site that formerly served as a dump for Ohio-based tire manufacturers.
On Tuesday, the day before the senators’ letter was sent to Whitman, Martin sent a memo to Michael
Shapiro, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. In
the memo, Martin declared his intention to resume an investigation of the Throop site with Hugh Kaufman
as his chief investigator.
EPA officials ‘‘barred’’ Kaufman from assisting Martin late last year, according to Martin. In response,
Martin suspended his investigations.
Martin has complained that EPA officials ‘‘barred’’ him from controlling the resources he needs to do his
job. He also said work rules proposed for the ombudsman office by EPA officials ‘‘will ultimately result in
obstructing the execution of an independent national ombudsman function if administered ... in their
present form.’’ The EPA has made the proposed rules available for public comment until March 5.
Kaufman said the actions by Specter and Martin could bring the controversy to a head and clear the way
for Martin to resume his investigations at other waste sites, including the Lake Township site.
‘‘Mr. Specter and Mr. Martin are breaking the logjam so we can go back to work doing our job and
doing these investigations at the requests of members of Congress,’’ Kaufman said.
An EPA response could come as soon as today, the apparent deadline for Shapiro to act on a request
from Kaufman and Martin to travel to Pennsylvania next Monday to resume the investigation.
If Shapiro denies the request, Kaufman said, he and Martin can file a grievance with Whitman, President
Bush’s pick to head the EPA, alleging that Shapiro ‘‘has stopped us from carrying out our duties,’’
Kaufman said. ‘‘And then Whitman is between a rock and a hard place because Specter and Santorum
already have asked her to stop the entrenched bureaucracy from stopping us.’’
EPA officials did not have a response to the senators’ letter to Whitman or Martin’s plan to resume his
investigation as of Thursday, a spokeswoman said.