Search
  • Mark Ryan

CWA Criminal Enforcement Numbers Down Under Current Administration

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Professor David Uhlmann of the University of Michigan recently published a paper entitled, "New Environmental Crimes Project Data Shows That Pollution Prosecutions Plummeted During the First Two Years of the Trump Administration." In his paper, he looks at criminal enforcement data released by EPA and shows that prosecutions are way down during the first two years of the Trump administration. The average number of cases per year for Bush and Obama for all statutes were 87.8 and 76.6, respectively. Trump's first two years were 38.


The CWA has seen particularly large reductions in cases. Bush and Obama charged on average 53.5 and 44.5 defendants per year under the CWA. For Trump it is 13. That's a 76% decrease from the second term of the Bush administration. Trump charged 17 defendants in 2017, but only 9 in 2018. These are historically low numbers. Uhlmann points out that the CWA is one of the easiest statutes to enforcement criminally because of the clear prohibition of discharging without a permit.


He opines that jurisdictional determinations may be playing a role in the large reduction of cases. If the CWA doesn't apply, there is no crime for the discharge. It's also possible that the uncertainty around jurisdiction has kept prosecutors from charging cases. Either way, the numbers tell a story.


I suspect that jurisdiction is playing a role, but I suspect the larger motivation behind the big reduction in cases is simply the pro-industry stance this administration has openly championed. I would like to see some hard research on water quality impacts of these policies. Given how long it takes for policy changes to show results in the water column and the lag time in collecting the data, it may take years to know the answer to that question.


Here's a link to the paper:

Michigan analysis of Trump EPA enforceme
.
Download • 573KB


If you would like to receive email notifications of new blogposts, go to the signup button above, leave your email, and you'll be alerted to updates.

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Waterkeeper Files NOI in Coal Ash Case

Waterkeeper last week served the NOI below on Ameren Corp, which is an electric utility in Missouri. The NOI alleges that Ameren is discharging without a permit wastewater from coal ash ponds into the

Two New (Oddball) CWA Cases

These two cases bring up issues one seldom sees in the case law, which makes them mildly interesting. Reading the clever arguments raised by defendants in the Earth Island case below reminded me of my

A Modest Proposal to Fix WOTUS

As I have argued numerous times in the past, Congress needs to fix the WOTUS problem. They created it by so vaguely defining “navigable waters,” and only they can permanently fix the problem (assuming

© 2016 by Ryan & Kuehler PLLC.

  • Facebook Basic Black
  • LinkedIn Basic Black
  • Twitter Basic Black