Canton Repository

April 7, 2001

EPA decides to hold off on rules for ombudsman 

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to delay implementation of new rules for the Superfund ombudsman until at least July, when a government report on the office is
due, they said.

Meanwhile, three senators on Friday asked EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to scrap the proposed rules altogether in favor of legislation that would make the ombudsman, a middleman between
the agency and public, more independent.

“In light of our mutual interest in creating a truly independent, viable and accountable ombudsman, we request that you defer final proceedings on the draft guidelines and accept our invitation to help enact legislation that statutorily accomplishes this goal,” Sens. Mike Crapo and Larry Craig, both R-Idaho, and Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said in a letter to Whitman.

The ombudsman, who is now Robert Martin, reviews citizen complaints and investigates EPA actions at federally supervised hazardous waste sites such as the Industrial Excess Landfill in Lake Township. 

Proposed rules developed for the ombudsman last year have drawn criticism from lawmakers and others who say they would hinder the office’s ability to independently review agency plans and decisions and to respond to citizen complaints.

Whitman, named administrator earlier this year when the rules were undergoing public review, is putting off making them final until she looks at a General Accounting Office report on the office and legislation that has been introduced to give the ombudsman more authority, EPA spokesman Chris Paulitz said.

“She’ll look at all that and then a decision will be made,” he said.