Friday, May 21, 2010

GEPA Oversight Hearing

Head of Guam EPA shows at oversight hearing
Posted: May 21, 2010 4:44 PM
by Nick Delgado

Guam - Lawmakers spent the afternoon questioning budget officials as well as village mayors before grilling Guam Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lorilee Crisostomo about how she's been operating her agency.

"Alarm bells are now sounding in Guam, and they are sounding because of the state of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency. The concerns are being presented by a broad cross-section of the community, ranging from grassroots people to business leaders and most especially by the Environmental Protection Agency," said oversight chairman Senator Rory Respicio (D).

Respicio called for today's oversight hearing on the Guam EPA after a scathing financial mismanagement report surfaced from the environmental agencies federal counterparts. Respicio during today's hearing said the oversight is necessary so that they can prevent an environmental disaster from occurring, something the senator says is possible with the way things are currently operating at the Guam EPA. The federal report stated a lack of communication with the USEPA and the Bureau of Budget Management & Research.

BBMR Director Bertha Duenas says however she has said from the beginning that she anticipates financial troubles for the Guam EPA. "We knew that the payroll alone was over $2 million and the next award wasn't until April, then it's pretty easy to see without too much math that we're going to run out of money soon in October."

BBMR is now working out the issues stated in the USEPA report.

But after about two-and-a-half hours of not being given the opportunity to speak, senators flooded Crisostomo with criticism and questions, as lawmakers feel the agency may be on the brink of federal receivership. It's an issue Respicio called Crisostomo out on, as he anticipates the problems at the agency will only get worse with the impending military buildup.

Respicio said, "What concerns me is it took USEPA to call out the DoD to say that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement gave it the worst grade ever, you were pretty silent throughout that whole process." Crisostomo replied, "We are just one of the government agencies, we are not the cooperative agency for the NEPA process our voice is just as much as your voice in the NEPA process, but we do an extensive review."

Although Crisostomo has called the federal report "inaccurate", the agency is reviewing the recommendations in the report to determine if it's possible for them to comply with.

When asked about the illegal dump fire in Yigo and the Notice of Violation issued against the property owner, Joseph Taitano, she said although it happened before her time. She followed-up and the matter, she reassured, is sitting with the AG's Office for further action.

Meanwhile, Senator Respicio said it seemed as though Crisostomo had an excuse for everything and added that today's hearing was not a witch hunt.