EPA makes the case that its enforcement programs are working

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday released data on its compliance assurance and enforcement results for Fiscal Year 2002.

Jan. 31, 2003 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday released data on its compliance assurance and enforcement results for Fiscal Year 2002.

The results show millions of pounds of harmful pollutants will be reduced, cleaned up, or treated, thousands of acres of wetlands will be restored, and cleaner air, water and soil for the American people. For the first time, EPA is reporting on a wider range of results achieved through its enforcement efforts, including data on groundwater, wetlands, and drinking water.

In addition to estimating the pounds of pollution to be reduced (261 million) and pounds of contaminated soil to be treated (513 million) as it has in previous years, EPA is now measuring gallons of contaminated groundwater to be treated (2.8 billion gallons), acres of wetlands that will be restored (40,000), and the number of people served by drinking water systems that will be brought into compliance (3.15 million) as a result of enforcement activity in FY2002.

These measures provide a more thorough and accurate profile of the environmental protection results achieved through EPA's program to enforce the nation's environmental laws. These new measures are important information for the public, and are in keeping with the Administration's emphasis on greater transparency as a tool to achieve compliance.

The President is requesting for FY2004 a $503 million enforcement and compliance program budget, which is a $21 million increase over the FY2003 request. This request will include funding for 100 additional full-time employees to enhance EPA's compliance monitoring and civil enforcement program.

Also notable in FY2002 is a 26 percent increase in the number companies self disclosing environmental violations. In FY2002, EPA saw 500 companies self disclosing violations in comparison to 397 in FY2001. Many of these disclosures came from tailored initiatives to improve environmental management. In the past five years, the number of companies self disclosing violations has increased by 150 percent from 200 in 1998 to 500 in FY2002.

EPA also saw a rise in the number of compliance inspections, a five percent increase in the number of referrals of cases to the Department of Justice for civil judicial enforcement action, and 674 criminal cases initiated, which include 484 environmental crime cases and 190 counter- terrorism cases.

These cases are the most significant, result in larger benefits for public health and the environment, and reflect the Administration's strong emphasis on enforcement.

EPA settlement of enforcement cases in FY2002 will bring important benefits for public health and the environment. As a result of these enforcement settlements, almost $4 billion in injunctive relief will go toward the clean up of polluted sites and protection against further environmental harm. The amount of injunctive relief that will be undertaken as a result of EPA's enforcement actions in the last two years combined is the highest on record.

"This is an enormous amount of money that is going directly to the clean up and enhanced protection of our air, land and water for future generations," said John Peter Suarez, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

EPA's FY2002 enforcement and compliance results include:

• 2.8 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater to be treated, and nearly 774 million pounds of pollutants to be reduced, treated, or managed;
• Drinking waters systems serving approximately three million people will be brought into compliance;
• 40 thousand acres of wetlands to be restored;
• Over 37 million pounds of sulfur dioxide to be removed from the air;
• Nearly $4 billion committed by violators to correct violations, restore the environment, and prevent future damage;
• 215 years behind bars for criminals who willfully or knowingly broke the law;
• More than 17,600 compliance inspections conducted by EPA across the nation;
• More than one half-million businesses and individuals received assistance to help them comply with environmental laws; and
• $144 million in administrative, criminal and civil judicial penalties.

"Our accomplishments this past year clearly demonstrate the Administration's commitment to a vigorous enforcement and compliance assurance program that produces environmental and public health results. Much credit goes to our strong partnerships with states, tribes, local governments, and private citizens," said Suarez.

More information about EPA's enforcement and compliance programs and its can be found accomplishments at http://www.epa.gov/compliance.

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