EPA Penalties Against Polluting U.S. Businesses Reach Lowest Point In A Decade

Here has been a sharp drop in the number of companies being fined for violation of environment norms in eth U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency during the first year of Presidency of Donald Trump and this has resulted in the agency recording a year when its enforcement activity against polluters reached the lowest point in a decade.

There were 115 cases related to environmental crimes that were initiated in 12017 financial year in comparison to a peak of 400 in the 2009 – during the Obama years, according to figures of EPA.

In 2017, new penalties slapped against offenders totaled $1.6 billion for the fiscal year ending 30 September.  While this is about one fifth of what was imposed during the Obama era in 2016, this figure was however higher than any other year since 2007.

Cleaning up of superfund sites and toxic areas that have been abandoned by polluting industries were the sources for $1.2 billion, the EPA pointed. Additionally. Criminal fines, restitution and court-ordered projects amounted to a total of $2.98 billion.

“A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes,” said Susan Bodine, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement“In fiscal year 2017, we focused 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.”

However, the fines received from Volkswagen for cheating on its emissions tests comprised a majority of the $2.98 billion secured by the agency in penalties in 2017. A $2.8bn criminal fine was paid by VW in 2017 according to a settlement agreement that was finalized and signed during the presidency of Obama.

Only about 1% of the total criminal recoveries in 2017 was accorded to Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator appointed by Trump, according to estimates of Cynthia Giles, who headed the EPA enforcement office under Obama. “Pruitt’s EPA is trying to take credit for work he didn’t do,” Giles said.

Tyson Poultry pleading guilty of violating the rules for clean water at a Missouri facility was among the other major enforcement actions that were taken last year by the agency. Tyson Poultry is the largest chicken producer in the US. A $2m fine and two years of probation was the result of the settlement according to an agreement that was arrived at in 2014.

“President Trump campaigned on a promise of ‘law and order’, but apparently law enforcement for big polluters is not what he had in mind,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the group and a former enforcement official at the EPA. “More people breathing more air pollution or swimming in waterways with more waste” would be he result of the drop off, Schaeffer said.

In recent months, Pruitt has had to stress that U.S. businesses have been “barking” in complaint in relation to how the agency is pursing them for superfund clean-ups and this has been viewed by many as an attempt by the agency to counter the notion about it being driven by some special interests.

(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)

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Categories: Economy & Finance, Regulations & Legal, Sustainability, Uncategorized

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