April 5, 2001
Industrial Excess Landfill: Bill would give ombudsman more power
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — A second bill has been introduced giving more authority and independence to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ombudsman.
Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla., introduced the bill Wednesday to strengthen the ombudsman’s ability to
respond to citizen complaints and investigate EPA plans and actions at hazardous waste sites.
Similar to legislation introduced late last month by several senators, including Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and
Wayne Allard, R-Colo., the bill increases the pressure on EPA officials to deal with complaints that they
have thwarted the ombudsman’s investigations of the agency.
Initial co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, who several years ago won EPA
permission for Ombudsman Robert Martin to review the agency’s plans at the Industrial Excess Landfill in
Lake Township. Reps. James Traficant, D-Poland, and John Shimkus, R-Ill., are other co-sponsors.
Bilirakis said the bill would “enable the ombudsman to continue to play an effective role in ensuring that
cleanup plans reflect the concerns of the local residents living in communities burdened with Superfund
The Ombudsman Reauthorization Act would give congressional authorization to the office operated at the
pleasure of the EPA. Under the bill, the ombudsman would report directly to the EPA administrator rather
than to an assistant administrator, the current practice.
Also under the proposal, the ombudsman would have the authority to investigate actions of EPA assistant
administrators, ask federal attorneys to issue subpoenas to compel testimony during investigations and
appoint “associate ombudsmen” in the EPA’s 10 regions. Those regions currently are served by regional
ombudsmen, who report to regional EPA officials rather than the national ombudsman.
The bill also would require the ombudsman to report to Congress and would provide the office with at
least $2 million in funding per year.
Shimkus said the bill is needed to strengthen the ombudsman office after it was “kind of left dangling”
during the Clinton administration.
“I fully appreciate the role of the ombudsman, someone who has a little bit of autonomy and who can fight
for our citizens against an entrenched bureaucracy,” he said.
Traficant is backing the legislation because he “sees these types of offices as a way to rein in” government
bureaucrats, his spokesman Charles Straub said.
Sawyer and his staff were unavailable to discuss the bill.