March 1, 2018 by Evan Isaacson

EPA Isn't the Only Place Where Enforcement Is Being Put on Ice

Recently, the Environmental Integrity Project released a report highlighting the freeze that Administrator Scott Pruitt has placed on the enforcement of the nation's environmental laws. The headline figures are stunning: "Civil Cases for Pollution Violations Decline by 44 Percent and Penalties Down by 49 Percent." And these numbers may understate the situation, as former EPA officials have noted that some of the cases and penalties that the agency has been touting were brought by the previous administration, not Pruitt's EPA. 

While the data are alarming, I suspect few people familiar with Pruitt's track record or the Trump administration's talking points would be surprised to discover that the EPA is scaling back the number of legal actions it takes against violators. What may be more surprising to environmental advocates, however, is just how far environmental enforcement has dropped off at the state level, including in wealthier and "bluer" states with long track records of environmental protection. What happens to state-based enforcement is extraordinarily important as it makes up the vast majority of all legal actions to protect the environment under state and federal laws – far more than EPA, other federal agencies, and actions taken by citizens and environmental groups, combined …

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