Penalties assessed by EPA decline under Trump, study finds

Penalties assessed by EPA decline under Trump, study finds
© Getty Images

Civil penalties assessed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are 60 percent lower so far under President Trump than at the same point in each of the last three administrations, according to a report released Thursday. 

The study, from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), shows that through the end of July, Trump’s Justice Department collected $12 million in civil penalties from 26 lawsuits filed against companies for breaking clean air and water laws. 

That compares with $36 million in penalties from 34 cases during the same time period under former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy MORE; $30 million from 31 cases under former President George W. Bush; and $25 million from 45 cases under former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonVirginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins Business coalition aims to provide jobs to Afghan refugees Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader MORE


The analysis is based on federal consent decrees in EPA civil cases referred to the Justice Department for prosecution.

“The early returns show fewer cases with smaller penalties for violations of environmental law,” said EIP executive director Eric Schaeffer, a former EPA director of civil enforcement.

“If this drop-off in environmental enforcement continues, it will leave more people breathing more air pollution or swimming in waterways with more waste.” 

EIP called its report a “snapshot,” and said a broader assessment of the EPA’s enforcement activity will take more time. 

“The actions that Justice Department and EPA take over the next year will indicate whether the disappointing results so far are all we can expect,” Schaeffer said.

In a statement, Patrick Traylor, deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said the figures “say much more about enforcement actions commenced in the later years of the Obama administration than it does about actions taken in the beginning of the Trump administration.”

He added that “despite this unfair report, EPA is committed to enforcing environmental laws to correct noncompliance and promote cleanup of contaminated sites.”

President Trump has nominated Susan Bodine to lead the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, which includes the civil enforcement office. Bodine’s nomination is pending in the Senate.