ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: Issues for Consideration in the Reorganization of EPA's Ombudsman Function
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
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EPAs hazardous waste ombudsman was first established within the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response as a result of the 1984 amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.1 Recognizing that the ombudsman provides a valuable service to the public, EPA retained the ombudsman function as a matter of policy after its legislative authorization expired in 1988. Over time, EPA expanded the national ombudsmans jurisdiction to include Superfund 2 and other hazardous waste programs managed by the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response and, by March 1996, EPA had designated ombudsmen in each of its 10 regional offices. While the national ombudsmans activities ranged from providing information to investigating the merits of complaints, in recent years, the ombudsman played an increasingly prominent role through his investigations of citizen complaints referred by Members of Congress. Legislation now pending before the Congress would reauthorize an office of the ombudsman within EPA.3 In November 2001, the EPA Administrator announced that the ombudsman function would be reorganized, effective in January 2002.4 Specifically, the agency announced that the national ombudsman would be relocated from the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to the Office of Inspector General OIG and would address concerns across the spectrum of EPA programs, not just hazardous waste programs. The agency also retained the ombudsmen located in its regional offices. In response to a request letter from Representative Diana DeGette raising concerns about placing the national ombudsman within EPAs OIG, we have recently initiated work to examine various issues related to the reorganization.
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