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EPA enforcement lagging as workload mounts, gov't watchdog says

2 minute read

Signage is seen at the headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Inspector general found environmental enforcement declining as funding decreased
  • Report names enforcement a key agency challenge, along with leading on climate change and maintaining scientific integrity

(Reuters) - Budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's enforcement program have contributed to a decline in the agency's enforcement of anti-pollution laws and regulations since 2011, the EPA's Office of Inspector General said on Monday.

The independent government watchdog in a report said that a growing economy over the last decade has driven increased need for monitoring at sites such as manufacturing plants and oil wells, but the agency's enforcement staff worries it lacks the capacity to adequately fulfill even its "major inspection obligations."

The report identifies adequate enforcement as a "top management challenge" for the agency, along with its ability to take a leading role in tackling climate change, safeguarding the role of science in its decision-making process, and other areas of concern.

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Enforcement trended downward from fiscal years 2007 to 2018 in "key" areas like compliance monitoring, according to the report. Enforcement activities that resulted in fines dropped by about 53% over the same period.

The EPA is tasked with enforcing 12 statutes, including the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Funding for the agency's enforcement program decreased by 18% between the fiscal years 2006 to 2018, the report said.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In April, President Joe Biden proposed a budget that would boost EPA's funding by about 21% over last year.

Read more:

Biden budget's $14 bln hike for climate includes big boosts for EPA, science

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Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo

Sebastien Malo reports on environmental, climate and energy litigation. Reach him at sebastien.malo@thomsonreuters.com

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