EPA Steps Up to the Plate on Clean Water Act Enforcement. Congress Needs to Step Up, Too

by Robert Glicksman | October 15, 2009

Just about a month ago, the New York Times published a story in which it documented an alarming failure on the part of federal and state officials to enforce the principal federal law designed to protect the quality of the nation’s surface waters, including rivers, lakes, and streams. According to that story, fewer than three percent of identified violations of the Clean Water Act result in fines or other significant punishments by state officials. These violations have the potential to threaten the health of people who use the affected waters drinking, swimming, fishing, and other purposes. Yet, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rarely stepped in to reclaim authority to administer the Act from states failing to fulfill their responsibilities to protect water quality through vigorous enforcement efforts.

EPA officials were well aware of these problems. This summer, less than six months after becoming President Obama’s EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson ordered EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) to investigate federal and state enforcement programs under the Clean Water Act and take steps to strengthen the statute’s capacity for protecting water quality and the health of those who use the water. Today, OECA responded to that charge by releasing its Clean Water Enforcement Action Plan. The Plan forthrightly recognizes the appalling plethora of significant water quality problems that face too many of America’s communities and traces those problems, in significant part, to ineffective implementation and inadequate ...

EPA Announces CWA Enforcement Plan

by Ben Somberg | October 15, 2009
The EPA today released a 15-page Clean Water Act Enforcement Action Plan prepared by the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Back in early July, Lisa Jackson had directed the enforcmeent office to develop a plan, and to "report back to me within 90 days with your recommendations." The EPA seems to be saying the plan released today is the final ("EPA Administrator Announces Plan to Retool and Reinvigorate Clean Water Enforcement Program.") The announcement came as the House ...

N.Y. Times Article on Water Pollution: A Timely Reminder of the Role of Enforcement

by William Andreen | September 15, 2009
Sunday’s New York Times article about the neglect of our clean water laws came as a timely reminder that, no matter how well articulated our environmental laws may be, it takes consistent, vigorous enforcement to ensure compliance with these statutory regimes. Unfortunately, as the article illustrates, state and federal enforcement of the Clean Water Act has languished during the past decade. Not only have governmental resources been inadequate, but all too often the will to enforce the law has been ...

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