The reason this is good news to polluters is that the special agents in the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division are responsible for investigating the most serious criminal violations of the nation’s anti-pollution laws–violations which can result in prison time for those convicted.
The result is fewer investigators and fewer referrals to the Justice Department for prosecution. In 2017, only 206 criminal cases were referred to the Justice Department compared to 228 during the previous 12 month period under President Obama. Not surprisingly, the number of referrals in 2018 is on pace to drop even lower.
These numbers are part of a declining trend that began during the Obama administration, as the GOP-controlled Congress attempted to curtail the mission of the EPA with budget cuts. As a result, the total number of Justice Referrals have been going down every year since a peak of 413 between September 2010 and October 2011.
In fact, since 2003, the EPA has been operating without the minimum level of criminal investigators required by the Pollution Prosecution Act. That act requires the EPA to employ 200 or more special agents, but that number has now fallen to 140. It is no wonder that the severely understaffed Criminal Investigation Division is having a difficult time doing its job.
As if that is not enough, special agents from regional offices have been pulled from their jobs to rotate in for two-week stints acting as personal security for Scott Pruitt round-the-clock. Apparently, it is more important for the EPA to protect Scott Pruitt–even at 3 in the morning–than the lives and health of everyone else in the country.
Pruitt claims that he is getting the EPA “back to basics”, but enforcing pollution laws IS one of the basic obligations of the EPA, and, right now, it is failing in that department.
Unfortunately, until this changes, there has never been a better time to violate our nation’s pollution laws and get away with it.