EPA Defends Enforcement Approach Despite Continued Decline in Case Filings and Inspections

EPA’s recently released enforcement statistics show a continuing trend of fewer case filings and inspections.  The statistics also show continued decreases in assessed penalties and the value of injunctive relief obtained.

Ten Year Lows in Most Enforcement Categories
According to the “Fiscal Year 2018 EPA Enforcement and Compliance Annual Results” (the “Annual Results”), Fiscal 2018 (October 2017 through September 2018) saw the lowest number in ten years of:
 

  1. new civil enforcement cases filed,
  2. value of administrative and civil judicial penalties assessed,
  3. value of injunctive relief obtained,
  4. number of inspections conducted, and
  5. number of criminal defendants charged.

In the Annual Results, EPA made special mention of new criminal case filings. Fiscal 2018 had a modest increase in new criminal cases, making 2018 the second lowest in the last ten years.  Fiscal 2017 remains the lowest in that category. 

Although criminal case filings are down significantly from ten years ago, the Annual Results indicate punishment is more severe.  On average, criminal convictions in Fiscal 2018 resulted in more incarceration time than in many past years. 

EPA Defends Its Approach
Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, has defended EPA’s approach to enforcement.  Before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that addressed EPA’s enforcement statistics, she denied EPA was “soft on environmental violators.”  She suggested EPA’s emphasis on compliance and greater efficiency in enforcement has produced results that may not show in the statistics. 

Increases in Voluntary Reporting and Supplemental Environmental Projects
The Annual Results show a significant and continuing rise in the number of facilities voluntarily reporting violations to EPA.  The Annual Results also show increased spending on supplemental environmental projects as a result of enforcement; this was higher in Fiscal 2018 than in five of the last ten years.

For a copy of the Annual Results https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-02/documents/fy18-enforcement-annual-results-data-graphs.pdf

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