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U.S. EPA Criminal Enforcement Drops

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros


U.S. EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance released its FY10 enforcement results which showed a drop in criminal cases opened and fines collected compared to FY09. In FY10, U.S.EPA had 387 cases opened as compared to 346 in FY09 and collected $41 million in fines and restitution compared with $96 million in FY09. Despite the drop in numbers of opened cases and fines and restitution collected, there has been an increase in the overall value of injunctive relief obtained, going from $5.3 billion in injunctive relief and 580 million pounds of pollution reduced in FY09 to $12.1 billion in injunctive relief and 1.5 billion pounds of pollution reduced in FY10. Click here to go to OECA's Press Release.

One reason for the drop in enforcement cases may be a result of U.S. EPA's new enforcement tiering system which focuses more on high-profile cases, leaving the states and other regulatory agencies to deal with the smaller cases. Typically, a Tier 1 case involves an environmental crime where a death or serious injury occurs; a Tier 2 case would be where no one is harmed but there was serious damage to the environment; Tier 3 cases involve situations such as large-scale dumping; and Tier 4 cases would involve more minor issues such as midnight dumping. According to officials within U.S. EPA, it is moving away from criminal enforcement of Tier 3 and 4 cases while focusing more on the Tier 1 and 2 cases. In addition, there has been and will continue to be more of a focus on charging individual as opposed to corporations in an effort to go after the persons within a company that actually make the decision to violate the environmental regulations.