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. Read the Reports»

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


Delray Deputy Utility Manager Cashiered   

Troubled Florida Water Utility Faces Gauntlet of Public Health Challenges

COMMENTARY | What is Going On with Colorado Air Quality?

Colorado has been undermining its own air pollution experts for years in favor of easing requirements for polluters.

COMMENTARY | Dunn Landfill’s Environmental Injustice

Dunn Landfill in New York impacts the residents of Rensselaer with problems like truck traffic, odor, dust and leachate.

Letter to Michael Regan – Cherokee Power Plant, Colorado – 05-10-2021 (PDF) 

DESCRIPTION: Letter to Michael Regan regarding environmental justice issues around the Cherokee power plant in ...

Letter to Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser – Air Quality Standards – 05-07-2021 (PDF) 

DESCRIPTION: Request to Expand Scope of Investigation by Special Assistant Attorneys General into Non-Enforcement ...

Letter to Chad Hardy – 03-31-2021 (PDF) 

DESCRIPTION: Letter to Chad Hardy regarding wastewater permits for the City of Delray Beach TO: Chad ...

Letter to the EPA Inspector General Requesting Review of Colorado Air Quality Non-Enforcement (PDF)

DESCRIPTION: Request for Review of Intentional Non-Enforcement of National Ambient Air Quality Standards by ...

Colorado Orders Staff to Ignore Air Pollution Violations  

Air Modelers Request Federal Intervention and Whistleblower Protection   

Letter to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – Air Quality Standards – 03/30/2021 (PDF)

DESCRIPTION: Letter to Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment to request that Colorado meet all ...

Letter to EPA IG – Colorado Air Quality Standards – 03/30/2021 (PDF)

DESCRIPTION: Request for Review of Intentional Non-Enforcement of National Ambient Air Quality Standards by ...

Beyond 2020: Pollution Enforcement

The strength of pollution regulation in the U.S. relies on enforcement, and the agency in charge is falling down ...

Aerially Sprayed Pesticide Contains PFAS  

“Forever Chemicals” Potentially Spread Over Millions of Acres 

Florida Annual Eco-Enforcement Reports

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

REPORT | 2019 – Florida Enforcement Report (PDF)

DESCRIPTION: Report on Enforcement Efforts by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection - Calendar Year ...

Florida Eco-Noncompliance Rises as Enforcement Wanes   

Governor DeSantis’ Pollution Control Record Even Weaker Than Scott’s

Orlando Chronic Sewage Breakdowns Fester  

Spills Risk COVID Exposure Yet No Abatement or Enforcement

Federal Pollution Prosecutions Continue to Fall

EPA Criminal Enforcement Program Continues to Shrivel under Trump

EPA Stacks the Deck on Pollution Permit Appeals

EPA would straight-jacket its quasi-independent appeals board by determining what it could hear and how it could rule

Fewer Florida Eco-Inspections Equals Less Compliance

Slight 2018 Election-Year Enforcement Uptick Yields Scant Results

EPA Drops Surprise Inspections

“No Surprises” Policy Aims to Avoid Embarrassing State Agencies
Phone: 202-265-7337

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Environmental Responsibility

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