Last fall, when our federal government screeched to a grinding halt, we learned that federal environmental inspections and pollution monitoring did too. That was distressing enough. Now we may have to contend with less enforcement of limits on dangerous pollution by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own design.
Reducing enforcement is equivalent to leaving communities overburdened by toxic air and water pollution out in the cold to fend for themselves. Cutting enforcement resources will disproportionately injure communities of color and low-income communities who are more likely to live near polluting industrial facilities. That’s why we have a BIG problem if EPA is deciding to reduce resources for their enforcement team while the stakes remain high.
Big polluters already release toxic pollution into our air and water with reckless abandon. One can only imagine how much more these Big Polluters would be emboldened by EPA willingly taking their eyes off the ball. How are fewer inspections a good thing? Who is better protected by less oversight? Certainly not you and your neighbors.
2013 highlighted a host of environmental challenges from explosions at refineries and fertilizer plants to multiple Exxon oil spills. Last year also marked the fifth Anniversary of the Kingston, TN coal ash spill that devastated still-recovering communities in Tennessee and Alabama. With these challenges in mind, EPA has just as many reasons today to hold industrial polluters to tough oversight as ever before.
Help hold big polluters accountable! Tell Administrator Gina McCarthy that you support a fully-staffed EPA enforcement plan.
The Draft Strategic Plan indicates reductions in inspections and civil complaints ranging from 30 to 50 percent of FY 2005-2009 baseline levels. Specifically, EPA indicates federal inspections will decline from the FY 2005-2009 baseline of 21,000 annually to 14,000 annually and the initiation of civil judicial and administrative actions will decline from the FY 2005-2009 baseline of 3,900 annually to 2,000 annually.
Reducing enforcement is equivalent to leaving communities overburdened by toxic air and water pollution out in the cold to fend for themselves. Cutting enforcement resources will disproportionately injure communities of color and low-income communities who are more likely to live near polluting industrial facilities.
Federal inspections are critical to fulfilling the Agency’s commitment to meaningful enforcement and deterring violations. These inspections provide critical data and compliance oversight. Current inspection levels already fall below the need and additional reductions would only further erode the Agency’s impact and credibility with communities desperate for relief from dangerous pollution. Coupling this reduction in inspections with fewer civil judicial and administrative actions means that citizens will be deprived of some of the most effective mechanisms for securing relief from environmental injustice and exploitation.
EPA’s commitment to adequately fund and prioritize enforcement sends a powerful signal to industry and impacted communities that bedrock environmental provisions are more than mere policy aspirations but legally binding obligations. I strongly request that EPA abandon its proposed reductions in inspections and processing of civil claims and instead plan to increase these and other enforcement resources.