Bush EPA Steps Up Enforcement, New Focus on Benefits

Published February 1, 2004

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Fiscal Year 2003 Annual Report on December 11. The compliance assurance and enforcement results for the period showed environmental benefits increased an estimated 131 percent over Fiscal Year 2002. Estimated pollutants reduced, treated, or properly managed totaled approximately 600 million pounds, compared to 260 million the previous fiscal year.

“Our accomplishments this past year clearly demonstrate the Administration’s commitment to a vigorous enforcement and compliance assurance program. Those numbers are impressive,” said John Peter Suarez, who resigned on January 5 as EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. “Through collaboration with states, tribes, local governments, and private citizens, we’ve been able to build a program that maximizes environmental and public health results.”

In addition to the approximately 600 million pounds of pollutants reduced, treated, or properly managed, EPA enforcement resulted in the treatment of more than 3.7 million tons of contaminated soil. Last year, EPA began estimating as well the gallons of contaminated groundwater treated (6.5 billion), acres of wetlands restored (1,050), and number of people served by drinking water systems brought into compliance (2 million) as a result of EPA enforcement activity.

As a result of enforcement settlements, almost $2.9 billion in injunctive relief will go toward the cleanup of polluted sites and protection against further environmental harm.

The number of businesses provided with compliance assistance increased 22 percent in 2003; more than 700,000 entities were assisted. The Web-based Compliance Assistance Centers registered more than 800,000 visits last year. “This assistance activity heads off pollution before it starts,” Suarez said, “and helps businesses run their environmental programs more efficiently and effectively.”

EPA’s FY2003 enforcement and compliance results also include:

  • More than 98 million pounds of sulfur dioxide removed from the air;
  • Nearly $2.9 billion pledged by violators to correct violations, restore the environment, and prevent future damage;
  • A combined total of 146 sentence-years for criminals who willfully or knowingly broke the law;
  • Almost 19,000 compliance inspections conducted by EPA across the nation; and
  • $167 million in administrative, criminal, and civil judicial penalties.

“EPA’s going after what really counts–reducing pollution and protecting public health,” said Suarez. “We don’t count our success in the number of notices of violation we write, as some would suggest.”

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].

For more information …

The full text of EPA’s Fiscal Year 2003 Annual Report is available on the agency’s Web site at http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/finstatement/2003ar/2003ar.htm.