Environmental Enforcement in 2017

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The Trump Administration has proposed the termination of many Obama administration environmental programs and initiatives and drastic cutbacks to the budget of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

In response, state of New York Attorney General Schneiderman has stated, “President Trump’s budget cuts would cause untold – and perhaps irreparable – damage to New York’s rivers, lakes, and drinking water. Even before these massive cuts, EPA represents just two-tenths of one percent of the federal budget — yet it’s responsible for protecting our environment and public health. As I’ve made clear: if the Trump administration won’t meet its legal obligation to ensure basic access to a clean, safe, and healthy environment, I won’t hesitate to act to protect New Yorkers.”

Without knowing what will, in fact, happen, set out below is a summary of the most current data on the enforcement initiatives that were undertaken at the federal level nationwide and by one component of the state of New York’s enforcement agencies.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported the following results for fiscal year 2016:

  • More than $13.7 billion in investments by companies in actions and equipment to control pollution. In addition, a case against Volkswagen lodged in June and entered just after the end of fiscal year 2015 adds up to $14.7 billion to remedy Clean Air Act violations.
  • More than $1 billion in commitments from responsible parties to clean up Superfund sites.
  • $6 billion in combined federal administrative, civil judicial penalties and criminal fines.
  • 93 combined years of incarceration for sentenced defendants.
  • $31.6 million for supplemental environmental projects that provide direct benefits to local communities across the country.

Included in the above totals were the following individual cases or initiatives:

  • Enbridge, which owns and operates one of the world’s largest oil pipeline systems, is spending at least $110 million on implementing a series of state-of-the-art leak detection and monitoring measures to prevent spills, improve operations and protect communities across nearly 2,000 miles of its pipeline system in the Great Lakes region. Enbridge is also paying $62 million in penalties for oil spills in Michigan and Illinois in 2010.
  • Sears will implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to ensure its contractors minimize lead dust from home renovation activities to protect the health of children and other vulnerable communities from exposure to lead-based paint.
  • A settlement with national grocery store chain Trader Joe’s Company will reduce potent greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration equipment at 453 stores nationwide and sets a high bar for the grocery industry for detecting and fixing coolant leaks.
  • EPA completed more than 100 enforcement actions that require entities like renovation contractors, landlords and property managers to protect communities and public health from exposure to lead. Collectively, the settlements require violators to pay more than $1 million in penalties in addition to returning to compliance with federal lead-based paint rules.
  • EPA’s criminal program secured $775,000 in court-ordered environmental projects, generated $207 million in fines and restitution and sentenced defendants to a combined 93 years of incarceration. The two owners of Freedom Industries, a chemical processing company, were each sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine for a chemical spill that contaminated the Elk River and drinking water for 300,000 people and vulnerable communities in Charleston, W.Va., and in surrounding areas.

State of New York Statewide Enforcement Totals for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Law Enforcement for calendar year 2014 were as follows:

Beci Totals 4.21.17Statewide 42117

 

Kevin C. Murphy is a member of the Wladis Law Firm, P.C., located in Syracuse, New York, and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America. Should you be confronted with an environmental issue of any kind and specifically an environmental enforcement, please feel free to contact Attorney Murphy or Attorney Timothy Lambrecht of the Wladis Law Firm to determine if we can be of assistance to you.

 

Photo By: Anne Lee

Kevin Murphy

Kevin C. Murphy concentrates his practice in the areas of environmental compliance and litigation; environmental and white-collar criminal defense, and complex litigation matters. Mr. Murphy is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and a former senior trial attorney with both the Kings County (NY) District Attorney’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section in Washington, D.C. He previously taught a seminar on environmental criminal enforcement at the Syracuse University School of Law and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America.

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