WASHINGTON — Civil and criminal crackdowns on polluters dropped sharply in the second year of the Trump administration, according to 2018 enforcement figures released Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Trump administration EPA says the agency is taking a new tack with polluters, giving states more of a role in regulation and enforcement and stressing education and voluntary compliance with offenders as well as fines and criminal prosecution.
“In fiscal year 2018, we continued our focus on expediting site cleanup, deterring noncompliance, and returning facilities to compliance with the law,” Susan Bodine, acting head of EPA enforcement, said in a statement.
The EPA has been one of the most active agencies overall in carrying out the deregulatory goals of President Donald Trump. Environmental and public-health groups say the business-friendly rollbacks place public health and the environment at greater risk.
Jeff Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said the newly released 2018 totals show environmental enforcement “entering a near dark age.”
Declines include civil investigations carried out by the agency, which fell to 22 last year, down from 40 in 2017 and 125 in 2016, the last year of the Obama administration.
Criminal fines and restitution tumbled, from $207 million in 2016, $3 billion in 2017 — including a $2.8 billion fine against Volkswagen over emissions-rigging, a case initiated under the Obama administration — to $86 million last year.