Washington, DC–The number of new cases referred by the Environmental Protection Agency for federal prosecution has dropped dramatically during the Bush Administration, according to new figures released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
“Christie Whitman is quietly presiding over the largest enforcement rollback in agency history,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization released a survey of agency investigators and enforcement attorneys yesterday. “Field agents say that EPA management is not interested in investigating corporate crime; as a result the enforcement program is dying from the roots.”
According to the Executive Office of US Attorneys figures compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC),
New criminal pollution cases referred by EPA for federal prosecution are down more than 40 percent since the start of the Bush Administration;
New civil pollution referrals are down by more than 25 percent under Bush; and
With the drop in new referrals, the number of environmental prosecutions, after initially holding steady, is also beginning to fall. New criminal prosecutions are off nearly one third and civil filings by more than a quarter from levels during the Clinton Administration.
“Ms. Whitman and her managers are holding press conferences touting settlements won in cases developed and brought during the Clinton Administration,” Ruch commented, noting that some of the biggest settlements were won enforcing Clean Air Act rules the Bush Administration is proposing to abolish. “Enforcement is a process, not an event. The process begins with inspections and investigations–this is the seed corn that is being squandered.”
EPA contends that it has opened more cases than ever before, but enforcement agents contend that agency numbers are vastly inflated and count matters that have no hope of being prosecuted. By contrast, the TRAC numbers look only at cases referred for civil or criminal prosecution and measure the enforcement outcomes of each case.