DOJ sidelines popular “Special Environmental Project” as enforcement tool.

August 29, 2019

The Trump administration is narrowing a long-standing federal practice of letting polluters do penance for their environmental violations, often in exchange for lower fines according to an August 21, 2019 Energy and Environmental News report.

Jeffrey Bossert Clark, head of the Justice Department’s environment division, outlined the policy change in an August 21st memo, specifically targeting “supplemental environmental projects,” or SEPs, in legal settlements with state and local governments.

SEPs work as general offsets for some of the harm associated with a violation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act or other federal law. Instead of simply fixing the infraction and paying a fine that goes into general government coffers, a violator can fix the infraction, volunteer to do an EPA-approved project with environmental benefits, and usually pay a smaller fine.

Those on-the-ground benefits and lower penalties make SEPs popular among enforcement officials, environmental groups and polluters alike. Government lawyers have used them in settlement negotiations for 25 years.

But Clark’s memo bars the use of SEPs in federal settlements with state and local governments — voicing ideological concerns about SEPs that have percolated in conservative circles for decades.

Critics say Clark’s move will eliminate opportunities to help communities affected by pollution and may hamstring enforcement officials in settlement negotiations.

The policy change builds upon 2018 guidelines from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said settlements that direct states, cities and counties to go beyond simple compliance with federal laws can deprive local elected officials and voters of the opportunity to decide their own local policy issues.

What this means to you
The Trump administration is barring the use of “Supplemental Environmental Projects”, often performed by polluters as an offset in exchange for lower fines.

MIRATECH can help
Contact MIRATECH for stationary engine emission compliance.