-2008 TDD (202) 514-1888


Enforcing Laws Means Protecting Public Health, Promoting Economic Development

WASHINGTON -- Calling 1997 one of the most successful years ever for enforcement of our nation's environmental laws, Assistant Attorney General Lois J. Schiffer today released the Environment and Natural Resources Division Summary of Litigation Accomplishments for 1997 titled "Protecting Human Health and Natural Resources For All Americans." Schiffer said ENRD's many successes demonstrate that environmental protection means better public health and more economic opportunities for the American people.

"Our natural resources are valuable sources of jobs, recreation, and tourism. By enforcing our nation's environmental laws, we also help to protect the public health and create safe, clean communities in which to live," said Schiffer who heads the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) of the Department of Justice. "When we enforce our nation's environmental laws we protect the public health and promote economic development."

For example, the ENRD helped to secure cleanup of contaminated "brownfield" sites to promote redevelopment of depressed urban areas; protected the nation's wetlands, which generate billions of dollars in revenue from fishing, tourism and other industries while preventing billions of dollars in damage from floods and erosion; and defended and enforced clean air protections whose estimated economic benefits far exceed compliance costs.

Schiffer cited several other initiatives and cases brought by the ENRD during FY 1997 as measures of success in protecting our environment.

A model for criminal prosecution, the government wide initiative to crack down on the illegal importation of chlorofluorocarbons resulted in the confiscation of nearly 12 million pounds of CFC's with an estimated value of $92 million, the conviction of 50 smugglers, the imprisonment of 20 (more) individuals, and criminal fines of more than $38 million. The ENRD also spearheaded the prosecution of several international live reptile smuggling rings that are part of a $5 billion yearly black market in live animals and animal products.

On the civil side, the ENRD obtained the largest civil penalty ever imposed by a court for environmental violations -- $12.6 million -- for thousands of violations of clean water protections that impaired the recovery of the Chesapeake Bay. It also successfully defended water quality protections for the Great Lakes and litigated the constitutionality of the Superfund statute, among other things.

In addition, the ENRD played a key role in ensuring the launch of NASA's Cassini Mission to Saturn, which was unsuccessfully challenged in court. This launch -- the result of an international team's efforts -- is scheduled to reach Saturn in July 2004.

For a copy of the ENRD 1997 accomplishments report, please call Jennifer Rose at 202-616-2771.