Energy & Environment

EPA penalties for polluters cut in half under Trump, study finds


The amount of civil penalties charged to polluters by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped by nearly half under President Trump, according to a new study released Thursday.

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) found that in the year since Trump’s inauguration, the penalties companies were forced to pay for violating regulations dropped by 49 percent compared to in President Obama’s first year.

Looking specifically at penalty amounts determined for cases lodged by the Trump administration, EIP found the Trump EPA collected $30 million compared to $71 million and $50 million in penalties under the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, respectively.


The report also found the number of cases filed against polluters by the Trump administration dropped drastically. There were 44 percent fewer cases opened under Trump than Obama in the first year of their administrations. In 2017, Trump recommended the Justice Department prosecute 48 civil cases compared to 71 civil cases prosecuted in 2009 under Obama. Comparatively, Bush officials lodged 112 cases in his first year in office.

“President Trump’s dismantling of the EPA means violators are less likely to be caught, making illegal pollution cheaper,” said Eric Schaeffer, EIP executive director and former director of EPA enforcement, in a statement. “The president’s ‘law and order’ agenda apparently wasn’t intended for fossil fuel companies and other big polluters.”

The numbers in the report paint a more dire picture at EPA than numbers released by the agency just last week in its annual enforcement report. That report, which tallied enforcement cases and penalties between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017, found that EPA enforcement cases dropped by almost 30 percent.

The number of cases recommended in fiscal 2017 was 110, compared to 152 the year before.

Experts warned the fiscal year wasn’t the most complete measurement of regulatory enforcement under the Trump administration because it likely included cases opened under Obama and completed under Trump.

The EIP data, instead, solely tallied cases opened under Trump.

Tags Barack Obama Donald Trump Enforcement Environmental policy in the United States regulations United States Environmental Protection Agency

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