The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its annual enforcement results for the 2018 fiscal year (ranging from October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018). The report highlights the results of the agency’s civil and criminal enforcement over the past year. Susan Bodine, the Assistant Administrator for OECA, summarizes EPA’s enforcement priorities, explaining “In fiscal year 2018, we continued our focus on expediting site cleanup, deterring noncompliance, and returning facilities to compliance with the law, while respecting the cooperative federalism structure of our nation’s environmental laws.”
Highlights from the 2018 report include:
- EPA assessed approximately $69.5 million dollars in administrative and civil judicial penalties in FY 2018. The report notes that it typically takes 2.25 years to move civil cases referred by EPA to the Department of Justice resolved via settlement or to proceed towards litigation with the filing of a complaint.
- In FY 2018 over 1,560 facilities voluntarily disclosed violations pursuant to EPA’s self-disclosure policies. This represents a 47% increase in self-disclosures from FY 2017 and an even greater climb from earlier years (for example, there were only 666 facilities that self-disclosed in FY 2015). EPA attributes the increases in the self-disclosure of environmental compliance issues to increased use of the eDisclosure reporting that was launched two years ago and EPA’s introduction of the New Owner Audit Policy this past fiscal year.
- EPA reported $88 million in criminal fines, restitution and court ordered environmental projects. The fines and restitution imposed in FY 2018, however, were higher than at any point in the 2008 to 2012 period. The data also shows that EPA continues to pursue criminal enforcement cases.
- EPA conducted about 10,600 inspections and compliance evaluations in FY 2018. Although this represents about a 10% decline from the prior year, it is consistent with a nearly decade-long continuing decline in EPA inspections and evaluations. Part of the decline, as reported by EPA in its annual report, is attributable to increased reliance on data analytics and other tools to improve inspection targeting.
- EPA reported that private parties committed to spend roughly $453 million to cleanup new sites. Despite the agency’s stated focus on increasing Superfund enforcement, this amount is less than half of FY 2017’s approximately $1.26 billion total. However, a couple of significant cleanup cases can heavily impacted the annual totals.
The full report of EPA’s 2018 enforcement and compliance assurance accomplishments is available here, https://epa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=0b9d73f351d648698f63bba3f3b15114, EPA’s FY18 Enforcement Annual Results Data Graphics are available here, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-02/documents/fy18-enforcement-annual-results-data-graphs.pdf and EPA’s News release for the 2018 Annual Environmental Enforcement Results can be found here, https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-announces-2018-annual-environmental-enforcement-results.