This article originally appeared in Inside EPA Weekly Report on April 15, 2011. It is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Inside Washington Publishers. Copyright 2011. No further distribution is permitted. Click here to view article (pdf format): Report Attacks EPA Civil Rights Office As DOJ Fights Pollution Complaint
Posts from ‘April, 2011’
Report Attacks EPA Civil Rights Office As DOJ Fights Pollution Complaint (reprinted with permission from Inside Washington Publishers)
Letter to Oregon Legislators Outlines RNA Concerns Over Columbia River Crossing Environmental Impact
I-5 Interstate Bridge Over Columbia River
Columbia River Crossing (CRC) has spent more than 5 years and $100 million dollars on the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge crossing. Rosemere Neighborhood Association has been monitoring CRC progress, raising numerous concerns over CRC environmental impact statements (“EIS”) and CRC adherence to National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) rules.
Attorney Tom Buchele, Managing Attorney & Clinical Professor for the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center (PEAC) at Lewis and Clark Law School, on behalf of RNA, Coalition for a Livable Future and Upstream Public Health, has sent a letter to the Oregon House Transportation and Economic Committee regarding the upcoming consideration and hearings on Oregon House Joint Memorial 22 (HJM 22). Oregon’s HJM 22 urges the federal government to fund the Columbia River Crossing Project.
Mr. Buchele’s letter details his concerns about the legality of the CRC’s NEPA analysis to date:
The CRC staff, and the state and federal agencies supporting this project, have already made a serious error regarding the bridge design. My letter highlights their multiple serious legal errors regarding compliance with NEPA. It would be an equally serious error, and a waste of even more taxpayer money, for this committee to simply rubberstamp the CRC’s mistakes by passing HJM 22 and thereby endorsing this project before those mistakes have been fully corrected.
To read Mr. Buchele’s letter to Oregon House Transportation and Economic Committee in full, click here: http://www.rosemerena.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/TomBuchele_PEAC_CRC_letter_to_Oregon_House_Transp_Comm.pdf
To read Mr. Buchele’s Executive Summary of CRC DEIS Comments: http://www.rosemerena.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/TomBuchele_PEAC_Exec_Summ_DEIS_Comm.pdf
To read Mr. Buchele’s Testimony Before CRC “Independent” Review Panel, July 2010: http://www.rosemerena.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/TomBuchele_PEAC_IRP_testimony.pdf
EPA, under the direction of Administrator Lisa Jackson, has released a redacted version of the Deloitte Consulting LLP Final Report on the Evaluation of the EPA Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
Rosemere Neighborhood Association (RNA) Title VI Complaint and subsequent Settlement Agreement between RNA and EPA of March 2010 figure prominently in the Report (See page 2 of Deloitte Report, link provided below):
This situation has exposed EPA’s Civil Rights programs to significant consequences which have damaged its reputation internally and externally. In the Rosemere Neighborhood Association case regarding the timeliness of a Title VI complaint response, it was found that “OCR’s failure to process the Retaliation Complaint in accordance with the timeline set forth in 40 C.F.R. S7.115(c)(1) constitutes agency action unlawfully withheld pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. S706(1).” 5 OCR’s performance has also damaged its reputation within EPA. It was noted repeatedly in interviews with EPA staff and management that OCR has been viewed as an organization that performs poorly and does not offer specialized expertise.
Deloitte’s assessment reveals a bleak accounting of the anti-discrimination processes within the OCR, listing, among others, these issues:
The Office of Civil Rights lacks “the rudiments of organizational infrastructure,” such as established procedures, defined staff duties or the ability to track cases. Its handling of employee complaints “is known for poor investigative quality and a lack of responsiveness”;
Dismally “poor performance” with backlogs and long delays in investigations of discrimination complaints. A review of complaints from EPA employees found that none received a final agency decision on time, with many several months overdue; and
A confused “fire drill mentality has resulted in significant financial and reputational consequences for the Agency” in the form of large cash settlements from botched discrimination investigations.