By: Blair Hassett
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a relatively new regulatiory arm of the federal government. The EPA was established in 1970 as a response to the increasing amount of public awareness and subsequent concern about environmental degradation and harmful pollutants. The purpose of the Agency was essentially to centralize a multitude of investigative experiments, regulations and standardizations of environmental enforcement to guarantee environmental protection within the United States. In essence, the initial purpose of the EPA was to ensure environmental protection and obtain an elevated environment for all Americans. However, the course of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations has changed dramatically within the past years.
In 2017, the EPA’s enforcement plummeted to the lowest level of environmental regulation within the last decade. This absence of enforcement can be accredited to the Trump administration. Trump’s appointed Director of the EPA at the time, Scott Pruitt, significantly constricted the services performed during his short-lived direction of the agency. The juxtaposition of the earlier enforcement activity conducted under Obama appointed Gina McCarthy, and the 2017 enforcement activity conducted under Trump appointed Scott Pruitt (who was succeeded by Andrew Wheeler in the July of 2018) elucidates the dilapidated state of the Environment Protection agency at the hands of the current administration. The records of the earlier enforcement activity compared to the 2017 records delineate the suppression of the Environmental Protection Agency; in 2009, the EPA opened 400 enforcement cases under the Obama administration, while over the 2017 financial year, only 115 environmental crime cases were opened, much less investigated. Furthermore, in 2016, the agency collected $14 million in civil and federal penalties while issuing around $5.9 billion in federal penalties. However, in 2017, the Agency amassed a collective $2.98 million in fines while issuing only $1.6 billion in federal penalties. Additionally, a sizable amount of the 2017 penalties paid were drawn from a Clear Air Act penalty originating from a suit brought against Volkswagen prior to the Trump administration.
The current director of the EPA and successor of Scott Pruitt, Andrew Wheeler, previously served as head of the Energy and Environment Practice Group. Wheeler also presided as the Co-chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Industry team within his law firm. Andrew Wheeler’s connection with energy lobbying exacerbate the claims that oil and gas connections exist within Trump’s appointments to the EPA and, due to these apparent connections to the oil and gas industries within the EPA, reductions to environmental reductions are to be expected. Wheeler’s environmental enforcement record is not expected to be an improvement from Pruitt’s. As for the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 regulation enforcement data, the numbers remain unfinished and unpublished. However, although the 2018 records remain to be seen, it is expected that the established trend of rapid decline is expected to have only been exacerbated by another year of Trump in office.
Photo via Pixabay.