EPA: What, Us Regulate Pollution?
As much as we'd like to say that we found the report issued by the Environmental Integrity Project analyzing the enforcement actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the past few years (or lack thereof) shocking and surprising, we'd really only be kidding ourselves in doing so. The Bush administration has made little effort to conceal its evident disdain for its role in protecting the environment and has done everything in its power to overtly or clandestinely gut the laws already on the books (see here and here for some recent examples).
Here are the grim statistics: the number of enforcement actions dropped by 25% under the current administration compared with actions taken under President Clinton from 1996 to 2000, civil penalties meted out to companies in violation of the law have fallen by 24%, criminal fines are down by 38% and the number of criminal investigations has tumbled by 23%.
Another highlight of the report is that the value of enforcement settlements is up (more than $26 billion) although the EPA has been increasingly reluctant to file lawsuits and has tried to weaken or outright eliminate provisions that will jeopardize the ability of the agency to receive high-value settlements in the future.
In reporting the findings, Eric Schaeffer, the director of the EIP, noted: "The bad news here is that it now costs less to pollute. Over the past five years under the Bush Administration's EPA and Department of Justice, environmental violators have been less likely to face court actions, be subject to criminal investigation, or pay civil or criminal penalties. There is one bright spot at the EPA: recent settlements that require polluters to spend billions of dollars to control emissions at power plants and refineries, or modernize sewage treatment systems."
"EPA's enforcement program deserves credit for obtaining settlements that require such significant expenditures in pollution control. Unfortunately, this notable achievement is threatened by EPA administrators' continued efforts to weaken the environmental laws its own staff keep trying to enforce," Schaeffer said. "The Office of Air and Radiation has undone some of these benefits by boring new loopholes in the Clean Air Act that weaken emission monitoring requirements and exempt major sources like power plants and the ethanol industry from regulation."
See also: ::EPA Set to Abandon 30 Years of Air Quality Control, ::EPA Closing Libraries, Destroying Scientific Documents, ::Pollution in China Costs 10% of GDP, ::Consumer Reports Debunks the Teflon Pan/PFOA Exposure Myth