- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2002

A federal judge Friday temporarily halted a Bush administration plan to reshuffle the office of the Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous waste ombudsman.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts issued a temporary restraining order against the government until a full hearing on the matter can be scheduled. The order remains in effect until Feb. 26.
Robert Martin, who handles citizen complaints for the agency on waste and Superfund matters, has asked the court to block EPA Administrator Christie Whitman from moving the ombudsman’s office to the EPA’s Inspector General’s Office.
Mr. Martin contends the move would weaken his independence within the agency. He said in court papers the agency planned the change because he has been an outspoken critic of corporations’ influence in Superfund cases, large environmental cleanups that involve the worst types of hazardous waste.
EPA spokesman Joe Martyak denied the agency was trying to weaken Mr. Martin’s role. “I am confident, on the merits, the court will find the claims unfounded,” the spokesman said.
A General Accounting Office report suggested moving the ombudsman, Mr. Martyak said, and “the ombudsman himself stated in that report that he thought he should be moved out of the Office of Solid Waste.”

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