EPA referrals for criminal prosecution lowest since 1988: report

EPA referrals for criminal prosecution lowest since 1988: report
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Criminal prosecutions have dropped to a 30-year low at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration, as the agency pursues deregulation.

The Associated Press reports that the EPA's criminal referrals in pollution cases sat at 166 last year, the lowest number since the Reagan administration.

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Former members of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division told the AP that the reason for the decreased caseload stemmed not from a lack of leads, but rather a lack of resources to pursue those leads.

Michael Hubbard, a former agent with the enforcement division, said that the agency was being "gutted" in terms of what it could do to confront illegal polluters.

"[A]s leads come in, they can’t be followed up on,” Hubbard told the AP. “You end up saying ‘no’ to potential leads routinely because you just don’t have the wherewithal to investigate them.”

A spokesman for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which provided the AP with the data regarding the EPA's enforcement of pollutant cases in 2018, said that the agency's investigative unit "is lacking a pulse."

“You don’t get closer to the core of EPA’s mission than enforcing the law,” he said. “We’re reaching levels where the enforcement program is lacking a pulse.”

A spokesman for the agency did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill, but when contacted by the AP the agency pointed to enforcement of an $800 million settlement with automaker Fiat Chrysler over software that caused vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.

The agency currently remains largely shut down, as EPA funding lapsed late last month when the federal government shut down due to an inability by Congress and the White House to reach a deal on funding for federal agencies.