Pollution Enforcement

Monitoring Pollution Enforcement

Citizens need to know how to engage with their state and federal environmental enforcement agencies to effectively demand responses to pollution. Anti-pollution laws – Clean Water Act (CWA); Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA); Clean Air Act (CAA); Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) – mean little unless the responsible agencies fairly implement and diligently enforce them.

The enforcement system is complex, with states handling much and the federal government often “backstopping” the states. This patchwork resulted from how the national laws evolved. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when highly-varying state laws proved inadequate to protect the environment, then new federal regulations and minimum standards were put in place. States were allowed to have more protective standards than those minimum standards if they chose to. To this day, enforcement of many, but not all, parts of the CWA, SDWA, CAA, RCRA and FIFRA, as well as their connected state laws and regulations, is a state function.

The enforcement agencies at both of those levels of government often need prodding and “watchdogging.” Thankfully Congress anticipated that, as shown by the fact that most of the Acts have special “citizen suit” provisions that provide affected people with a direct path to Court to obtain enforcement when the agencies falter

Florida Pollution Enforcement Reports

Since 2004, PEER has examined Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) files to assess pollution enforcement. In a state heavily reliant on its natural beauty for tourism revenue, it has fallen far short of acceptable pollution levels primarily in its waterways and wastewater management.

Despite pledges to strengthen pollution enforcement, Florida state records show declines in virtually all meaningful measures. Notably, violations and significant noncompliance with pollution limits are growing while major enforcement actions are declining.

Federal Enforcement

Environmental Protection Agency EPA Building

The EPA uses administrative actions, civil actions, and criminal actions to enforce environmental laws that fall under the agency’s purview. Read More»

State Enforcement

Enforcement of certain environmental laws and regulations is delegated to state agencies, though EPA must often approve state-level programs. Read More»

Citizen Enforcement

Citizens can help fill in cracks in federal and state enforcement of environmental laws by filing citizen petitions and lawsuits.​  Read More»


The EPA Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website contains databases that users can search for facilities around the country and see past compliance records. Beyond just searching ECHO for pollution sources in your area, for example, you also can:

  • Search for EPA criminal and civil enforcement cases, including by individual corporations;
  • See enforcement-related maps;
  • Review trends in compliance and enforcement; and
  • Examine your own State enforcement agencies’ performances.

ECHO also includes “Latest Enforcement News” updates and information on the current Administration’s compliance and enforcement initiatives. The site also has a User Guide.

Other Helpful Sources on Enforcement

A Sheep in the Closet: The Erosion of Enforcement at the EPA , a report by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative

Paying Less to Pollute, a report by the Environmental Integrity Project

EPA enforcement actions hit 10-year low in 2017, NBC News- Feb. 8, 2018

Environmental Council of States (ECOS), information-rich website on cooperative federalism from states’ perspective


EPA Rejects Air-Pollution Permits for Oil, Gas Wells in Colorado

Win for Clean Air Calls Into Question Effectiveness of Pollution Controls

Colorado’s Air Pollution Program Broken and Adrift

State’s Air Quality Worsens While Cosmetic Changes Ignore Core Problems

Lawsuit Probes Oak Ridge Clean Water Waiver

What Did EPA Administrator Regan Know When He Overruled His Experts?

Water Board Still in Dark About Santa Susana Discharges

Staff Withholding Documents on PCB Poisoning of LA River on Eve of Vote

Petition to EPA – NO2 and SO2-NAAQS – 10-04-2023 (PDF)

DESCRIPTION: Petition for Rulemaking to Establish Increments for the 1-hour Nitrogen Dioxide and Sulfur Dioxide ...

L.A. River Poisoned by Toxic PCBs

Santa Susana Likely Suspect but Water Board Withholding Documents

Nutrient Bomb Set to Detonate in San Francisco Bay

$3 Billion Plan Will Inject Even More Nutrients into Degraded Estuary

PEERMail | Holding Polluters Accountable

It takes constant oversight by advocacy groups to make sure the government holds polluters accountable.

More Oil and Gas Wells Illegally Permitted in Colorado

Conservation groups petition EPA to step in and protect air quality

COMMENTARY | Florida’s Environment – A Native Floridian Perspective

Florida must take significant steps to promote coastal resiliency and protect all communities against the effects ...

Florida’s Environment Spirals Downward Under DeSantis

Nosedive in Anti-Pollution Enforcement Leading to Declining Water Quality

REPORT | 2022 Florida Enforcement Report

Florida's environmental enforcement actions are well below historical averages and have declined significantly in ...

San Francisco PUC Awash in Water Pollution Violations

City Agency Facing Stiff Fines Amid Pending Federal & State Legal Sanctions

Florida Annual Eco-Enforcement Reports

Since 2004, PEER has examined Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) files to assess pollution ...

EPA Criminal Enforcement Sputters Back to Life

FY 23 Uptick After Enforcement Levels Hit Generational Lows Under Biden

Reply Comment on Minor Alteration Permit – Great River Energy Cambridge Plant Permit Alteration – 06-30-2023 (PDF)

DESCRIPTION: Initial public comment on application for a Minor Alteration to Great River Energy’s 170 MW, Natural ...

Comment on Minor Alteration Permit – Great River Energy Cambridge Plant Permit Alteration – 06-20-2023 (PDF)

DESCRIPTION: Initial public comment on application for a Minor Alteration to Great River Energy’s 170 MW, Natural ...

Navy Refuses to Probe Hunters Point Toxic Disinformation

Navy IG Won’t Review False Statements on Sr-90 Levels in “Clean” Parcel

Colorado’s Air Quality Doomed to Get Worse

Gutted Reform Bill and New Regs Offer Nothing to Stem Downward Spiral

Public Comment – Colorado Air Quality Permits – 05-04-2023 (PDF)

DESCRIPTION: Public comments on Colorado Minor Source NSR Modeling Guideline for Air Quality Permits, submitted ...
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