EPA reports lowest number of pollution penalties in a decade

The Environmental Protection Agency reported the lowest number of penalties in 2018 in more than a decade. The agency confirmed it had assessed lower penalties for violations of pollution laws.

The EPA stated it obtained a total of $3.95 billion in injunctive relief in fiscal 2018 which was the lowest amount in 15 years.

One of the enforcement settlements involved Anchor glass Container Corporation which has manufacturing facilities in Oklahoma as well as Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota and New York.

Anchor agreed in the August 2018 settlement to take steps to reduce harmful air emissions from its manufacturing plants. The company agreed to install pollution controls to cut emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter at the glass making facilities. Oklahoma and Indiana also participated in the settlement.

Another of the EPA settlements involved TCI Pacific Communications which agreed to speed up cleanup work at the Eagle Mine site in Minturn, Colorado where arsenic issues in the Eagle River had been raised.

The last time the numbers were that low was in 2003 during the Bush administration, at $3.94 billion.

Looking at civil penalties, the total amount fined to polluters who broke EPA regulations was $69.47 million in the same period, the lowest amount on record since the EPA’s enforcement office was established in its current form in 1994.

The 2018 figures were both a drop from the alarming amounts the EPA collected in 2017. Injunctive relief in 2018 was an 80 percent decrease from the EPA’s 2017 numbers of $20 billion. Civil penalties in 2018 dropped nearly 96 percent from the agency’s 2017 numbers of $1.6 billion.

The drop in penalty numbers assessed under Trump in 2017 are already under investigation by both Interior’s Office of the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office.

EPA officials Friday nonetheless appeared proud of their enforcement results.

“A strong enforcement and compliance assurance program is essential to achieving positive public health and environmental outcomes,” Susan Bodine, head of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement on Friday’s report.

“In fiscal year 2018, we continued our focus on expediting site cleanup, deterring noncompliance, and returning facilities to compliance with the law, while respecting the cooperative federalism structure of our nation’s environmental laws.”

 

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