Center for Public Environmental Oversight
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The Center for Public Environmental Oversight (CPEO) is an organization that promotes and facilitates public participation in the oversight of environmental activities, including but not limited to the remediation of federal facilities, private "Superfund" sites, and Brownfields. It was formed in 1992 as CAREER/PRO (the California Economic Recovery and Environmental Restoration Project) by the San Francisco Urban Institute, in response to the large number of military base closures in the San Francisco Bay Area. It draws upon more than four decades of work led by CPEO Director Lenny Siegel at the Pacific Studies Center, a non-profit public interest information center in nearby Mountain View, California.

CPEO has its roots in community activism, and it provides support for public advocacy, but it is not a political organization. Its work is based upon six principles: Empowerment, Justice, Education, Communications, Partnership, and Credibility.

  • Empowerment. People who are affected by hazardous waste and other environmental problems have a right to influence programs designed to address them.
  • Justice. Since environmental injustice is inseparable from racism, and other social inequities, environmental programs must make special efforts to involve and serve communities that have traditionally been denied political and economic power.
  • Education. Public stakeholders can participate in the environmental decision-making process constructively and effectively only if they are informed both about the nature of the problems and about how the government and private sector are organized to address them.
  • Communications. Community activists have develop an enormous body of experience and knowledge, so all parties are served by mechanisms that enable communications among public stakeholders and between members of the public and government policy-makers.
  • Partnership. Despite differences in background, attitude, and site-specific objectives, public stakeholders, regulators, and polluters must at some point work together to address contamination and other environmental problems.
  • Credibility. Communications, education, and partnership contribute best to empowerment and justice only if one is committed to the fair and accurate representation of both the facts and the positions of other participants in the process.


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