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Prime Suspects

Prime Suspects

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The Law Breaking Polluters America Fails to Inspect
The Law Breaking Polluters America Fails to Inspect

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Published by: Environmental Working Group on Jan 22, 2013
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The Law Breaking PollutersThe Law Breaking PollutersThe Law Breaking PollutersThe Law Breaking PollutersThe Law Breaking PollutersAmerica Fails to InspectAmerica Fails to InspectAmerica Fails to InspectAmerica Fails to InspectAmerica Fails to Inspect
John CoequytJohn CoequytJohn CoequytJohn CoequytJohn CoequytRichard WilesRichard WilesRichard WilesRichard WilesRichard Wiles
 
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Acknowledgments
This report was written by John Coequyt and Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group. It is the 10
th
in a series of studies published by the Environmental Working Group on the status of enforcement of America’smajor environmental laws.This report was made possible by grants from the Beldon Fund, the Turner Foundation, the Joyce Foundation,and Working Assets Funding Service.Copyright © July 2000 by Environmental Working Group. All rights reserved. Manufactured in the UnitedStates of America.
Printed on recycled paper.
Environmental Working Group
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit environmental research organization based in Wash-ington, D.C. Through analysis of government and private sector databases, environmental monitoring programs,and scientifically grounded research, EWG develops high-profile publications, computer databases and Internetresources that consistently create public awareness and concern about high priority environmental problems andsolutions.Kenneth A. Cook, PresidentRichard Wiles, Vice President for ResearchMike Casey, Vice President for Public Affairs
To order a copy
Copies of this report may be ordered for $25.00 each (plus 6% sales tax or $1.50 for Washington, DC residents)and $3.00 for postage and handling. State versions of this report are $5.00 each (plus 6% sales tax or $0.30 forWashington, DC residents). Payment must accompany all orders. Please make checks payable to:Environmental Working Group1718 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Suite 600Washington, D.C. 20009(202) 667-6982 (phone)(202) 232-2592 (fax)
www.ewg.org
This and many other EWG publications are available on the World Wide Web at
www.ewg.org.
 
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Executive Summary
Prime Suspects
Federal environmental lawswere created through bipartisanefforts in the 1970s to toughenand standardize a patchwork of inconsistent state pollutioncontrol laws. The establishmentof environmental standardsacross state lines produced adramatic improvement in thenation’s environment. Yetalmost unnoticed during the1990s, there was a fundamentalshift in environmental law en-forcement authority away fromU.S. EPA and back to the states.Now, three decades after pas-sage of the nation’s clean air andwater laws, major polluters areslipping through the growinggaps in environmental enforce-ment.In passing the nation’s majorpollution control statutes, Con-gress specifically authorized theU.S. EPA to grant implementa-tion and enforcement power toqualified states. The delegationof this authority, however, hasnot been accompanied by suffi-cient oversight of state programsor by regulations adequate toensure their performance. As aresult, many of the interstatedisparities of the 1970s havereemerged in the form of sub-stantial discrepancies betweenstate enforcement of federalenvironmental statutes (GAO2000, IG 1998). These vastdifferences have created pollu-tion havens in some states wheremajor polluters are not inspected,fines are incredibly low, and lawbreakers are protected by secrecypolicies that shield their viola-tions from public scrutiny andlegal penalties.Before granting enforcementpowers to a state, EPA requiresby regulation that states haveadequate authority to seek civiland criminal penalties. But theagency does not require that thestate have administrative penaltypower, nor does the EPA requireany minimum frequency of air orwater inspections, base penaltyamounts for major lawbreakers,or even that states report to themthe worst violators of the law(GAO 2000).Although the states wereslowly granted environmentalenforcement authority throughoutthe 1970s and 80s, in the 1990sthis process accelerated as manygovernors and their politicalappointees, nearly all of themRepublican, aggressively pursuedthis reversal of power. Undermounting political pressure todevolve authority to the states,the EPA was only too eager to
Almost unnoticedduring the 1990s,there was afundamental shift inenvironmental lawenforcement authorityaway from U.S. EPAand back to the states.As the states gainedauthority to enforcefederal pollutioncontrol laws, manyalso implemented aseries of parallelpolices that severelyunderminedenforcement.

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