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Updated December 22nd, 2023 at 10:42 IST

Environmental enforcement is on upswing: Biden administration

More than half of the inspections and settlements concerned poor and disadvantaged areas that had long been harmed by pollution.

Business Desk
US President Joe Biden.
US President Joe Biden | Image:AP

 

The Environmental Protection Agency conducted more on-site inspections of polluting industrial facilities this year than at any time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency announced on Monday, as it strives to re-energise its enforcement programme following more than a decade of funding cuts.

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The EPA filed roughly 200 criminal investigations this year, a 70 per cent rise from 2022, according to study. It finished approximately 1,800 civil settlements, a 9 per cent increase over 2022.

More than half of the inspections and settlements concerned poor and disadvantaged areas that had long been harmed by pollution, indicating the Biden administration's attention to environmental justice problems, as per the agency. However, several aspects of the EPA's enforcement efforts continue to lag.

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Every year, the Trump administration charges more, albeit only modestly. In the latter years of the Obama administration, nearly 200 defendants were charged. Additionally, the number of criminal cases they've opened recently have increased.

According to the EPA, its enforcement and compliance efforts have resulted in the reduction, treatment, removal, or minimisation of 1.84 billion pounds of pollutants, as well as the payment of over $704 million in penalties, fines, and restitution to violators. The dollar amount represents a 57 per cent increase over 2022.

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Even as officials try to create approximately 300 positions, the EPA's enforcement personnel remain considerably below their high from more than a decade ago. Following budget cuts imposed since 2011, the EPA has terminated around 950 enforcement posts.

The EPA filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern Railway after a train crash in eastern Ohio spilled toxic chemicals and forced thousands of residents to flee. Officials from the federal government want to make sure the corporation pays for the cleanup.

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The EPA also filed a lawsuit against Denka Performance Elastomer LLC, claiming that its petrochemical facilities in southern Louisiana posed an intolerable cancer risk to the predominantly black neighbourhood nearby.

The EPA has ordered the business to decrease harmful emissions from its synthetic rubber production.

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(With PTI inputs)

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Published December 19th, 2023 at 11:18 IST

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