February 28, 2019
On February 8, 2019 EPA published FY 2018 Enforcement Results highlighting the environmental benefits reaped from its enforcement and compliance assurance actions over the past year. This year’s report shows a marked shift away from previous years’ reports, which focused on the number of cases initiated and resolved and the amount of penalties imposed according to a February 18, 2019 report from Energy and Environmental Law.
Overall enforcement numbers declined over previous years, with a continuing decline in inspections from 10,612 in FY 2018 compared to 11,941 in FY 2017, fewer cases initiated and concluded, and few penalties imposed from $69.4 million in FY 2018 compared to $1.67 billion in FY 2017. To contextualize the penalty reduction, EPA notes that annual penalty totals are often skewed by one or two large cases in a particular year, such as the Volkswagen mobile source defeat device enforcement with $1.45 billion in penalties in FY 2017 and the $5.7 billion in penalties assessed in FY 2016 for the BP oil spill. Despite other reductions, the report shows an increase in enforcement of environmental crimes for FY 2018.
Beyond the numbers, EPA’s report focuses on the new approaches it is taking to enforcement, including increasing coordination with states and tribes, utilizing technology to make enforcement more efficient, and focusing on achieving positive public health and environmental outcomes. For example, while EPA acknowledges the reduction in inspections in FY 2018 it cites to the use of data analytics and other tools to improve inspection targeting and promote efficiency. EPA also plugs the benefits of self-audits and self-disclosure, noting that 532 entities voluntarily disclosed violations at over 1,500 facilities, a 47% increase compared to FY 2017.
EPA’s report also includes detailed charts highlighting the estimated environmental benefits of its actions as well as a region-by-region breakdown of enforcement activities.
What this means to you
EPA overall enforcement numbers declined in 2018. EPA’s report focuses on the new approaches it is taking to enforcement, including increasing coordination with states and tribes, utilizing technology to make enforcement more efficient, and focusing on achieving positive public health and environmental outcomes.
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