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 the
nearly three 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
- 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
- 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.