Federal Pollution Control Laws: How Are They Enforced?
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
As a result of enforcement actions and settlements for noncompliance with federal pollution
control requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that, for
FY2008, regulated entities committed to invest an estimated $11.8 billion for judicially mandated
controls and cleanup, and for implementing mutually agreed upon (supplemental)
environmentally beneficial projects. EPA estimates that these efforts achieved commitments to
reduce 3.9 billion pounds of pollutants in the environment, primarily from air and water. EPA also
assessed more than $195 million in civil and criminal fines and restitution during FY2008.
Nevertheless, noncompliance with federal pollution control laws remains a continuing concern.
The overall effectiveness of the current enforcement organizational framework, the balance
between state autonomy and federal oversight, and the adequacy of funding are long-standing
This report provides an overview of the statutory framework, key players, infrastructure,
resources, tools, and operations associated with enforcement and compliance of the major
pollution control laws and regulations administered by EPA. It also outlines the roles of federal
(including regional offices) and state regulators, as well as the regulated community.
Understanding the many facets of how all federal pollution control laws are enforced, and the
responsible parties involved, can be challenging. Enforcement of the considerable body of these
laws involves a complex framework and organizational setting.
The array of enforcement/compliance tools employed to achieve and maintain compliance
includes monitoring, investigation, administrative and judicial (civil and criminal) actions and
penalties, and compliance assistance and incentive approaches. Most compliance violations are
resolved administratively by the states and EPA. EPA concluded 2,084 final administrative
penalty orders in FY2008. Civil judicial actions, which may be filed by states or EPA, are the
next most frequent enforcement action. EPA may refer civil cases to the Department of Justice
(DOJ), referring 280 civil cases in FY2008. The U.S. Attorney General’s Office and DOJ’s
Environmental Crimes Section, or the State Attorneys General, in coordination with EPA criminal
investigators and general counsel, may prosecute criminal violations against individuals or
entities who knowingly disregard environmental laws or are criminally negligent.
Federal appropriations for environmental enforcement and compliance activities have remained
relatively constant in recent fiscal years. Total funding for EPA’s enforcement activities in
FY2008 was $553.5 million. Many contend that overall funding for enforcement activities has not
kept pace with inflation or with the increasingly complex federal pollution control requirements.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Federal and State Government Interaction................................................................................2
Federal Funding and Staffing for Enforcement Activities........................................................3
Other Enforcement Issues.........................................................................................................4
Statutory Framework for Enforcement of Pollution Control Laws and Key Players.....................5
Key Players in Environmental Enforcement and Compliance..................................................6
EPA ..................................................................................................................................... 6
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)......................................................................................7
Other Federal Agencies.......................................................................................................8
States and “Delegated Authority” ......................................................................................8
Citizens ............................................................................................................................. 12
Enforcement at Federal Facilities.....................................................................................15
Enforcement Response and Compliance Tools.............................................................................16
Monitoring, Inspections, and Evaluations...............................................................................17
Civil Administrative Actions...................................................................................................19
Civil Judicial Enforcement......................................................................................................20
Criminal Judicial Enforcement................................................................................................20
Sanctions and Penalties...........................................................................................................22
Penalties Assessed to Federal Facilities..................................................................................24
Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)........................................................................25
Environmental Justice and Enforcement/Compliance............................................................26
Compliance Assistance and Incentive Approaches.................................................................27
Funding for Enforcement/Compliance Activities..........................................................................29
Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................... 32
Figure 1. Key Players in Enforcement of Pollution Control Laws..................................................1
Figure A-1. EPA Civil Judicial Referrals, Administrative Order Complaints, and
Criminal Referrals, FY1992-FY2008.........................................................................................37
Figure A-2. Number of EPA Federal Inspections and Evaluations by Statute, FY1994-
FY2007 ....................................................................................................................................... 38
Figure A-3. Environmental Enforcement Penalties Assessed by EPA: Administrative,
Civil Judicial, and Criminal, FY1986-FY2008..........................................................................39
Figure A-4. EPA Supplemental Environmental Projects: Number of Projects and Dollar
Table 1. Major Federal Pollution Control Laws..............................................................................5
Table 2. EPA Industry and Government Sectors............................................................................14
Table 3. Number of EPA Criminal Investigators: FY1997- FY2007...........................................22
Table 4. Sector Web-Based Compliance Assistance Centers.........................................................28
Table 5. EPA-OECA’s FY2007-FY2008 Enacted Appropriation and FTEs by EPA
Appropriations Account and Program Activity..........................................................................30
Table A-1. EPA Civil Administrative, Civil Judicial, and Criminal Enforcement Actions,
FY2003-FY2008 ........................................................................................................................ 37
Table A-2. Number of EPA Enforcement Inspections and Evaluations by Statute,
FY2002-FY2007 ........................................................................................................................ 38
Table A-3. Environmental Enforcement Penalties Assessed by EPA: Administrative,
Civil Judicial, and Criminal, FY2003-FY2008.........................................................................39
Table A-4. Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) Dollar Values as Reported by
Appendix. Enforcement/Compliance Databases and Examples of Reported Results...................33
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................41
Congress has enacted laws requiring individuals and facilities to take measures to protect
environmental quality and public health by limiting potentially harmful emissions and discharges,
and remediating damage. Enforcement of federal pollution control laws in the United States
occurs within a highly diverse, complex, and dynamic statutory framework and organizational
Multiple statutes address a number of environmental pollution issues, such as those associated
with air emissions, water discharges, hazardous wastes, and toxic substances in commerce.
Regulators and citizens take action to enforce regulatory requirements in a variety of ways to
bring violators into compliance, to deter sources from violating the requirements, or to clean up
contamination (which may have occurred prior to passage of the statutes). Implementation and
enforcement provisions vary substantially from statute to statute, and are often driven by specific
circumstances associated with a particular pollution concern. Given these many factors, it is
difficult to generalize about environmental enforcement.
This report focuses on enforcement of federal environmental pollution control requirements under
the Clean Air Act (CAA); the Clean Water Act (CWA); the Comprehensive Environmental
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, (CERCLA or Superfund); and other statutes for 1
which EPA is the primary federal implementing agency. The report provides a brief synopsis of
the statutory framework that serves as the basis for pollution control enforcement, including an
overview of the key players responsible for correcting violations and maintaining compliance.
Implementation and enforcement of pollution control laws are interdependent and carried out by a
wide range of actors including federal, state, tribal and local governments; the regulated entities
themselves; the courts; interest groups; and the general public. Figure 1, below, presents the array
of local, state, tribal, and federal entities that constitutes the environmental pollution control
enforcement/compliance framework and organizational setting.
Figure 1. Key Players in Enforcement of Pollution Control Laws
Source: Diagram prepared by CRS.
1 See CRS Report RL30798, Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
A diverse set of regulatory approaches and enforcement tools are applied to a sizeable universe of
regulated entities by these multiple regulating authorities to ensure compliance. A general
discussion of enforcement monitoring and response tools is included in this report, followed by a
summary of recent federal funding levels for enforcement activities. Discussion of available
enforcement data sources, as well as tables illustrating examples of trends in enforcement
activities, is presented in the two appendices.
While this report touches on many aspects of environmental enforcement, it does not describe
every aspect and statute in detail. Rather, the report is intended to provide a broad perspective of
environmental enforcement by highlighting key elements, and a general context for the range of
related issues frequently debated. Information included in this report is derived from a variety of
sources. These sources, including relevant subject-matter CRS reports providing in-depth
discussion of specific topics and laws, are referenced throughout.
Several themes reflecting congressional concerns over time since EPA was established in 1970
are reflected throughout the major sections of this report. Congress has conducted oversight,
primarily in the form of hearings, on various aspects of the organizational infrastructure and
operations designed to enforce pollution control statutes. These aspects of enforcement have also
been the topic of investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and EPA’s 2
Office of Inspector General (EPA-OIG). The federal government’s oversight of and coordination
with states in implementing and enforcing federal pollution control laws have been of particular 3
interest to Congress. The following sections briefly discuss some of the key issue areas.
Since many, but not all, of the federal pollution control statutes authorize a substantial role for
states, state autonomy versus the extent of federal oversight is often at the center of debate with 4
regard to environmental enforcement. Not unexpectedly, given the “cooperative federalism” that
is often used to characterize the federal, state, and tribal governments in the joint implementation
2 See, for example: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, “Oversight Hearing on EPA Regional
Inconsistencies,” June 28, 2006, http://epw.senate.gov/hearing_statements.cfm?id=257928; Government Accountability
Office (GAO): Environmental Enforcement: EPA Needs to Improve the Accuracy and Transparency of Measures Used
to Report on Program Effectiveness, GAO-08-1111R, September 18, 2008; Environmental Compliance and
Enforcement: EPA’s Effort to Improve and Make More Consistent Its Compliance and Enforcement Activities, GAO-
06-840T, June 28, 2006; Environmental Protection: More Consistency Needed Among EPA Regions in Approach to
Enforcement, June 2000, GAO/RCED-00-108, all available at http://www.gao.gov; EPA’s Office of Inspector General
(EPA-OIG): Enforcement—Compliance with Enforcement Instruments, Rpt. 2001-P-00006, March 29, 2001,
3 Ibid.; see also GAO: Environmental Protection: Collaborative EPA-State Effort Needed to Improve Performance
Partnership System, GAO/T-RCED-00-163, May 2, 2000, and. Environmental Protection: Overcoming Obstacles to
Innovative State Regulatory Programs, GAO-02-268, January 31, 2002. See also EPA-OIG (http://www.epa.gov/oig/):
EPA Needs to More Actively Promote State Self Assessment of Environmental Programs, Report No. 2003-P-00004,
December 27, 2002.
4 Many references discuss “cooperative federalism” in the context of environmental policy; these include Robert L.
Fischman, Cooperative Federalism and Natural Resources Law, New York University Envtl. L. J. 179, vol. XIV 2006,
Issue 1; Mark Agrast, et al., How to Protect Environmental Protections?, Envtl. Law Reporter, vol. 35, 2005 (10413 -
10417), the Environmental Law Institute; Philip J. Weiser, Towards a Constitutional Architecture for Cooperative
Federalism, North Carolina L. Rev., vol. 79, 2001 (663, 671), University of North Carolina; Vickie L. Patton, A
Balanced Partnership, The Envtl. Law Forum, vol. 13, no. 3, May/June 1996; and, Robert V. Percival, Environmental
Federalism: Historical Roots and Contemporary Models, Maryland Law Rev., vol. 54, 1995 (1141).
and enforcement of pollution control requirements, relationships and interactions among these
key enforcement players often have been less than harmonious.
Disagreements involving environmental priorities and strategic approaches, and balancing the
relative roles of compliance assistance with enforcement, contribute to the complexity and
friction that come with enforcing national pollution control laws. Other contributing factors
include the increasing number of statutory and related regulatory pollution control requirements
(some with conflicting mandates) and the adequacy of the resources available for their
The effects of variability among statutes, coupled with variability in federal and state
interpretations and regulations, are often central to the debate. Some argue that this variability
leads to too much inconsistency in enforcement actions from state to state, region to region, or
between federal versus state actions. Others counter that this represents the flexibility and
discretion intended by the statutes to address specific circumstances and pollution problems.
A July 2007 GAO report found that progress had been made regarding federal oversight of state
environmental enforcement programs, and that there had been improvements with regard to
cooperative federal-state planning and priority setting. However, the GAO concluded that a 5
greater effort was needed to achieve more consistency and effectiveness.
The level of federal funding allocated to states and tribes to support effective enforcement of 6
federal pollution control laws has also been a long-standing congressional concern. In 2004, the 7
Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) reported a $1 billion annual gap in the amount of 8
funding needed by states to implement federal environmental laws, based on a survey of states.
GAO reported that, although funding overall for enforcement activities had increased somewhat,
it generally had not kept pace with the increasing number of mandates and regulations, or with 9
The adequacy of overall federal enforcement funding and personnel, primarily within EPA and
the Department of Justice (DOJ), to ensure effective enforcement of environmental statutes, has
also been a concern of Congress. Staffing levels of criminal investigators at EPA has been of
particular recent interest. For example, Congress enacted the 1990 Pollution Prosecution Act (P.L.
101-593) requiring EPA to hire and maintain 200 criminal investigators. A provision in the
House-passed FY2008 Interior and Environmental Agencies Appropriations bill (H.R. 2643)
would have required EPA to bring the total number of investigators up to the level of 200 as
5 GAO, Environmental Protection: EPA-State Enforcement Partnership Has Improved, but EPA’s Oversight Needs
Further Enhancement. GAO-07-883, July 31, 2007.
6 For example, see EPA’s Office of Inspector General Report, Congressional Request on EPA Enforcement Resources
and Accomplishments, October 10, 2003, Rpt #- 2004-S-00001, http://www.epa.gov/oig/.
7 The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) is a national nonprofit (501(c)(6)), nonpartisan association of state
and territorial environmental commissioners, established in December 1993. http://www.ecos.org.
8 ECOS, The Funding Gap, The Journal of the Environmental Council of the States, Winter 2004. http://www.ecos.org/
9 GAO, Environmental Protection: EPA-State Enforcement Partnership Has Improved, but EPA’s Oversight Needs
Further Enhancement. GAO-07-883, July 31, 2007.
statutorily required.10 The provision was not included in the FY2008 appropriations (P.L. 110-
161, Title II of Division F). Congressional concerns regarding staff and funding for EPA’s
criminal (and civil) enforcement were also expressed in conference report language 11
accompanying EPA appropriations for FY2003 through FY2005, and were the topic of a 12
congressionally requested EPA-OIG investigation. Criminal enforcement staffing is discussed
further in the “Criminal Judicial Enforcement” section below.
Many other aspects of pollution control enforcement have been the subject of debate, and
highlighted in congressional hearings and legislation. Some additional areas of continued interest
• whether there is a need for increased compliance monitoring and reporting by
• impacts of environmental enforcement and associated penalties/fines on federal
facilities’ budgets (most notably the Department of Defense, or DOD, and
Department of Energy, or DOE);
• how best to measure the success and effectiveness of enforcement (e.g., using
indicators such as quantified health and environmental benefits versus the
number of actions or dollar value of penalties);
• whether penalties are strong enough to serve as a deterrent and maintain a level
economic playing field, or too harsh and thus causing undue economic hardship;
• how to balance punishment and deterrence through litigation with compliance
assistance, incentive approaches, self-auditing or correction, and voluntary
• the effect of pollutant trading programs on enforcement; and
• the level of funding required to effectively achieve desired benefits of
These issues result from disparate values and perspectives among stakeholders, but also from the
factors that are the focus of this report: the statutory framework, those who work within this
framework, and the tools and approaches that have been adopted for achieving compliance with
pollution control laws.
10 Title VI—Additional General Provisions Sec. 605 of H.R. 2643 (June 28, 2007, placed on the Calendar of the
Senate). See also H.Amdt. 441 to H.R. 2643, offered and agreed to, June 26, 2007, inserted under Title VI—Additional
General Provisions Sec. 601 (CR H.R. 7222). The FY2008 omnibus appropriations (P.L. 110-161) did not include this
general provision (Joint Explanatory Statement Accompanying Division F of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for
FY2008 (P.L. 110-161, H.R. 2764), as presented in the Congressional Record, December 17, 2007, pg. H16142).
11 Conference Report 108-72 (p. 1563) accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, P.L. 108-447);
Conference Report 108-401 (p. 1126) accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004, P.L. 108-199; and
Conference Report 108-10 (p. 1445) accompanying Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003, P.L. 108-7.
12 EPA’s Office of Inspector General Report 2004-S-00001, Congressional Request on EPA Enforcement Resources
and Accomplishments, October 10, 2003, http://www.epa.gov/oig/.
The discussion below, beginning with identification of the principal statutes and key players,
followed by an overview of integrated systems of administrative and judicial enforcement,
compliance assistance, and incentive tools, is intended to provide a macro-perspective of
environmental enforcement infrastructure and operations.
As Congress has enacted a number of environmental laws over time, as well as major
amendments to these statutes, responsibilities of both the regulators and the regulated community
have grown. Organizational structures of regulatory agencies have evolved in response to their
expanding enforcement obligations. Regulators also must adapt to an evolving, integrated system
of administrative and judicial enforcement, compliance assistance, and incentive tools (see
discussion under the heading “Enforcement Response and Compliance Tools” later in this report).
The 9 laws listed in Table 1 generally form the legal basis for the establishment and enforcement
of federal pollution control requirements intended to protect human health and the environment.
Table 1. Major Federal Pollution Control Laws
Statute Major U.S. Code
Comprehensive Environmental Response, 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675
Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund)
Clean Air Act 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401-7671
Clean Water Act 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1387
Safe Drinking Water Act 42 U.S.C. §§300f-300j
Solid Waste Disposal Act/Resource Conservation and Recovery Act 42 U.S.C. §§6901-6991k
Environmental Planning and Community-Right-To-Know Act 42 U.S.C. §§11001-11050
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act 7 U.S.C. §§136-136y
Toxic Substances Control Act 15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq.
Pollution Prosecution Act of 1990 42 U.S.C. §4321
Note: This list is not comprehensive in terms of all laws administered by EPA, but rather covers the basic
authorities underlying the majority of EPA pollution control programs. For a discussion of these statutes and
their provisions, see CRS Report RL30798, Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The discussion in this report focuses on these federal environmental laws for which the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the primary federal implementing agency. Since the
EPA was created in 1970, Congress has legislated a considerable body of law and associated
programs to protect human health and the environment from harm caused by pollution. Those
federal statutes, intended to address a wide range of environmental issues, authorize a number of
actions to enforce statutory and regulatory requirements.
Enforcement of this diverse set of statutes is complicated by the range of requirements, which
differ based on the specific environmental problem, the environmental media (e.g., air, water,
land) affected, the scientific basis and understanding of public risks, the source(s) of the
pollutants, and the availability of control technologies. Regulatory requirements range from
health and ecologically based numeric standards, or technology-based performance requirements,
to facility-level emission and discharge permit limits. Several of the pollution control laws require
regulated entities to obtain permits, which typically specify or prohibit certain activities, or
delineate allowable levels of pollutant discharges. These permits are often the principal basis for
monitoring, demonstrating, and enforcing compliance. In recent years, an increasing number of
administrative initiatives have favored incentive-based regulatory approaches, such as trading of
permitted emissions, which can affect the applicability of traditional enforcement approaches.
Regulating authorities establish enforcement response and compliance assistance programs to
address the enforcement provisions of particular federal pollution control statutes. These
environmental statutes typically authorize administrative, civil judicial, and criminal enforcement
actions for violations of statutory provisions. For example, §309 of the CWA, §113 of the CAA, 13
and §1414 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) cover enforcement provisions. As
provisions for specific actions vary from statute to statute, each EPA regulatory program office
establishes detailed criteria for determining what sanctions are preferable (and authorized) in
response to a given violation. The statutes often provide a level of discretion to regulators for
addressing specific circumstances surrounding certain environmental problems or violations of
Enforcement of the many provisions of the major environmental laws across a vast and diverse
regulated community involves a complex coordinated process between federal (primarily EPA
and DOJ), state, tribal, and local governments. Congress provided authority to states for
implementing and enforcing many aspects of the federal statutory requirements. Citizens also
play a role in ensuring that entities comply with environmental requirements, by reporting
violations or filing citizen lawsuits, which are authorized under almost all pollution control laws.
The following discussion highlights the roles of these key players.
Primarily through its program offices (e.g., air, water, solid waste), EPA promulgates national 14
regulations and standards. Other federal agencies (e.g., the Department of the Interior, Army
Corp of Engineers) and states, tribes, various stakeholder groups, and citizens may contribute
input to EPA at various stages of regulatory development (including required public comment).
(States may also establish their own laws based on the national requirements; see the discussion
later under the heading “States and Delegated Authority”). EPA (and states) inform the regulated
community of their responsibilities and administer permitting, monitoring, and reporting
requirements. EPA also provides technical and compliance assistance, and employs a variety of
administrative and judicial enforcement tools as authorized by the major environmental laws it
administers, as well as incentive approaches, to promote and ensure compliance.
13 See 33 U.S.C. §1319, 42 U.S.C. §7413, and 42 U.S.C. §300g-3.
14 See CRS Report RL32240, The Federal Rulemaking Process: An Overview, by Curtis W. Copeland.
Since the EPA’s establishment, the Agency’s enforcement organization has been modified a 15
number of times, and continues to evolve. EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance
Assurance (OECA) at headquarters and in the 10 EPA regional offices sets the general framework
for federal enforcement activities in coordination with the agency’s program offices, states and
tribes, and other federal agencies, particularly DOJ. OECA serves as the central authority for
developing and implementing a national compliance and enforcement policy, and coordinating
and distributing policies and guidance.
EPA’s National Program Managers (NPM) Guidance16 is the primary strategic planning tool that
sets out national enforcement program priorities and coordinates state, regional, and EPA
headquarters environmental enforcement/compliance activities. The EPA’s 10 regional offices, in
cooperation with the states, generally are responsible for a significant portion of the day-to-day
federal enforcement activities. The NPM Guidance is developed jointly with the EPA regions and
states/tribes, and serves as the basis for the enforcement agreements (“commitments”) with the
regional offices, identifying overall program directions as well as specific activities, allocation of
resources, and expected outcomes. On October 12, 2007, OECA announced EPA’s current
national enforcement and compliance assurance priorities for the years FY2008 through 17
The EPA National Enforcement Investigations Center (NEIC) provides technical expertise to the
agency and states. The center administers an investigative team that assigns investigators to the 18
regional offices as needed. OECA also facilitates EPA’s National Enforcement Training Institute
(NETI), established under Title II of the 1990 Pollution Prosecution Act (P.L. 101-593). NETI
provides a wide spectrum of environmental enforcement training online to international, federal,
state, local, and enforcement personnel, including lawyers, inspectors, civil and criminal 19
investigators, and technical experts.
OECA’s headquarters personnel conduct investigations and pursue or participate in national
enforcement cases, particularly those potentially raising issues of national significance. More
often enforcement activities fall to the regional offices. EPA (and the states’) enforcement actions
often require coordination with other federal agencies, most frequently DOJ.
In coordination with EPA, the Department of Justice (DOJ)—at its headquarters and through the
U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country—plays an integral role in judicial federal enforcement
actions of environmental regulations and statutes. EPA refers cases (including some initiated by
15 For more information regarding EPA’s current organizational structure for enforcement, see the agency’s website at
16 See EPA, OECA, Compliance and Enforcement Short Term Planning website for individual annual fiscal year
National Program Managers Guidance, and Memoranda of Understanding (MOAs), http://www.epa.gov/compliance/
17 For more information regarding EPA’s environmental enforcement priorities, and strategic planning, see EPA-
OECA, National Priorities for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/
18 EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center (NEIC) is located in Denver, Colorado. See http://www.epa.gov/
19 EPA’s National Enforcement Training Institute (NETI), http://www.netionline.com/.
states) to DOJ for an initial determination of whether to file a case in federal court. DOJ
represents EPA in both civil and criminal actions against alleged violators, maintaining close
interaction as needed with EPA, states, and tribes during various stages of litigation. DOJ also
defends environmental laws, programs, and regulations, and represents EPA when the agency
intervenes in, or is sued under, environmental citizen suits. EPA-OECA referred 280 civil cases to 20
DOJ in FY2008 and 168 criminal cases in FY2004 (the last year criminal referrals were 21
reported publicly by EPA). Many of these cases are handled by DOJ’s Environment and Natural 22
Resources Division (ENRD). EPA and DOJ work conjunctively with the other federal agencies
as cases warrant.
EPA and DOJ coordinate with a number of other federal agencies, particularly when taking
criminal action. Key federal agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Homeland Security (DHS, particularly the
Coast Guard and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE), Fish and Wildlife
Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and U.S. Securities
and Exchange Commission (SEC). These agencies may provide support directly in response to
violations of laws implemented by EPA, or, as is often the case, in circumstances where multiple
laws have been violated.
Most federal pollution control statutes, but not all, authorize EPA to delegate to states the 24
authority to implement national requirements. For a state to be authorized, or “delegated,” to
implement a federal environmental program, it must demonstrate the capability to administer
aspects of the program’s requirements, including the capacity to enforce those requirements.
Delegated authority must be authorized under the individual statute, and states must apply for and
receive approval from EPA in order to administer (and enforce) federal environmental programs.
While many federal pollution control laws provide authority for states to assume primary
enforcement responsibilities, there is significant variability across the various laws, including as
to standards states must meet and EPA’s authority in determining whether states are authorized or
have primacy. In some cases, state primacy is almost automatic.
20 EPA-OECA, EPA FY2008 Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results Report, December 2008, http://epa.gov/
21 EPA-OECA discontinued reporting criminal referrals beginning with reporting in FY2005. EPA, National
Enforcement Trends FY2004—Criminal Enforcement, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/nets/fy2004/
22 EPA’s cases are typically handled by three of the division’s 10 sections: the Environmental Crimes Section, the
Environmental Enforcement Section, and the Environmental Defense Section (http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/
23 The term “delegated authority” has become the most commonly used when referring to EPA’s authority to approve
states’ programs. Federal statutes more often use “primary enforcement responsibility,” “primacy,” “approved,” or
“authorized” states’ responsibility.
24 See CRS Report RL30798, Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), for references to sections of individual acts that provide state authority.
Some federal pollution control laws limit the authority to a specific provision, while others do not
authorize delegation at all. For example, §1413 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
authorizes states to assume primary oversight and enforcement responsibility (primacy) for public 25
water systems, and §402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) authorizes state-delegated
responsibilities under that act to issue and enforce discharge permits to industries and
municipalities. Under CERCLA (Superfund), states are authorized to participate in the cleanup of
waste, from taking part in initial site assessment to selecting and carrying out remedial action, and
negotiating with responsible parties. Under FIFRA, states may have primacy for enforcing
compliance requirements contained on labels of registered pesticides, but are not granted
enforcement authority related to registering pesticides or pesticide establishments. Programs
under other laws, such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), do not provide authority for
state delegation. EPA can also authorize state government officials to conduct inspections for
environmental compliance on behalf of the agency, subject to the conditions set by EPA, even if a
specific statute does not provide delegation authority. However, there must be authority under the 26
specific statute for authorizing such inspections.
Even if delegation is authorized under a federal statute, states may opt not to seek delegation of a
particular environmental program, or they may choose only to implement a select requirement
under a federal law. For example, as of November 2007, 45 states had obtained the authority to
operate the national permitting program under §402 of the CWA, but EPA had only delegated
authority to two states to operate the wetlands permitting program under a separate CWA 27
A majority of states have been delegated authority to implement and enforce one or more 28
provisions of the federal pollution control laws. Authorized states generally implement the
national laws and regulations by enacting their own legislation and issuing permits, which must
be at least as stringent as the national standards of compliance established by federal law. States
consider and approve environmental permits, monitor and assess environmental noncompliance,
provide compliance assistance and information to the regulated community and the public,
conduct inspections, and take enforcement actions. Local government authorities also may play a
role in permitting and monitoring. For example, EPA has delegated authority to implement §112
of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to at least three county governments. However, local governments
generally act within the context of assuring states’ requirements. For example, local authorities
may incorporate land use and other issues as well as code requirements (fire, construction,
building safety, plumbing, etc.) in their consideration of permits. A more detailed discussion of
the many facets of local authorities is beyond the scope of this report.
A significant proportion of inspections and enforcement actions are conducted by the states.
Comparable, comprehensive data from the same or similar sources are not readily available for
purposes of directly comparing enforcement activities in states relative to EPA. While EPA
routinely reports trends in its major enforcement actions in the annual OECA accomplishments
reports and on its website, the agency does not include states’ activities. There are a number of
25 See footnote footnote 24, p. 48.
26 See EPA guidance for issuing federal inspector credentials to state/tribal governments to conduct civil inspections:
27 See, CRS Report RL30030, Clean Water Act: A Summary of the Law, by Claudia Copeland.
28 The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) has tracked delegated authority by state and statute; see
limitations with regard to states’ information currently retained by EPA in its databases (e.g., not
all states report relevant information into the EPA databases, reported data are not provided
consistently from state to state, and reporting requirements are variable from statute to statute).
EPA is working to enhance and improve enforcement reporting by states. The agency has
developed and has been implementing its State Review Framework (SRF) tool introduced in 29
2004, to improve its oversight of state enforcement programs. Under this SRF tool, EPA
representatives visit and evaluate each state’s compliance and enforcement program based on
specified criteria. Through discussions and reports, EPA provides feedback to each state and
based on its review, outlines recommendations for improvement. Full implementation of SRF
was initiated by EPA in July 2005 and the Agency reported that reviews of all states and
territories were completed in 2007. OECA continues to work with its partners to conduct an 30
evaluation implementing SRF recommendations a conducted subsequent reviews.
Nevertheless, there are still perceived differences between states, EPA regions, and EPA
In recent years, ECOS31 has served as a forum to improve coordination and promote joint
strategic planning between the states and EPA. In addition to other strategic planning tools, EPA
and states established the National Environmental Performance Partnership System (performance 32
partnerships, or NEPPS) in 1995 in an effort to improve the effectiveness of EPA-state
coordinated environmental management. Under this system, which includes elements of
compliance and enforcement, EPA and states enter into individual partnerships (performance
partnership agreements) to address jointly agreed-upon priorities based on assessments of
localized environmental conditions. The partnerships can be broad in scope or comprehensive
strategic plans, and often serve as work plans for funding through EPA grants.
Absent delegation, EPA continues to enforce the federal law in the state, although a state can
enforce its own environmental laws where not
preempted by federal law. Even with The term “overfiling” applies to situations when federal
delegation, EPA retains the authority and enforcement actions are filed during or after a state
responsibility as determined by each statute to enforcement action against the same entity for violation
take enforcement measures, generally taking of a federal statute. Some states and regulated entities
action when there is a violation of an EPA use the term more broadly in reference to assertion of federal authority. Overfiling or the threat of overfiling
order or consent decree, or when the federal sometimes strains EPA-state relations and cooperation,
government deems a state to have failed to sometimes implying criticism of a delegated state’s
respond to a major violation in a “timely and effectiveness.
appropriate” manner. Additionally, when a
noncompliance case involves an emergency or matters of potential national concern, such as
significant risk to public health and safety, the federal government will typically intercede. There
are cases where states request the federal government to step in, and other cases where the federal
government on its own initiative acts on violations that are the subject of state enforcement action
or settlement, known as “overfiling.” EPA contends that overfiling occurs infrequently and that
29 EPA-OECA, Best Practices and Program Improvements Expected to Result from SRF, September 12, 2007,
30 EPA, FY 2009 Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA)National Program Manager (NPM)
Guidance, revised June 2008, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/data/planning/npmguidance2009.pdf
31 The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) is a national nonprofit (501(c)(6)), nonpartisan association of state
and territorial environmental commissioners.
32 See http://www.epa.gov/ocirpage/nepps/ for information regarding NEPPS.
certain environmental statutory provisions preclude EPA from overfiling. These provisions are not
explicit in all the pollution control statutes, and are limited to specific subsections and 33
violations. Although overfiling of states’ enforcement actions has occurred under various
pollution control statutes, historically, overfiling of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
(RCRA) violations has been the subject of considerable debate and litigation. States have strongly
objected to overfiling, and the utility and extent of overfiling with respect to environmental 34
enforcement has been the subject of considerable litigation, debate, and literature.
EPA and states increasingly have recognized the role of tribal governments in environmental 35
enforcement, where tribes, rather than states, have primary jurisdiction. Indian tribes, as
sovereign governments, can establish and enforce environmental programs under their own laws,
but must obtain approval from EPA to administer federal environmental programs on their land. 36
As with states, some of the federal statutes authorize tribes, with EPA approval, to assume
responsibility for implementing certain federal pollution control programs. To obtain EPA
approval, tribes must demonstrate adequate authority and jurisdiction over the activities and lands
to be regulated. Where there is no approved tribal program, EPA exercises its federal authority
and may undertake direct program implementation. In some instances, particularly when there are
criminal violations, EPA may retain a role in compliance and enforcement even when there is an
approved tribal program.
In addition to the federal statutes, a tribal government’s authority for environmental protection
can arise from federal executive orders, treaties, and agreements with the United States and/or 37
state and local governments, some of which explicitly reserve rights pertaining to the
environment. When addressing environmental issues within tribal lands, EPA abides by the 38
January 24, 1983, American Indian policy statement, which reaffirmed the government-to-39
government relationship of Indian tribes with the United States.
33 Provisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA) under §309 are often cited as an example of legislation limiting EPA’s
authority to overfile. EPA’s authority to enforce under this section is only limited when a state has commenced an
“appropriate enforcement action” in response to and within 30 days of EPA’s issuance of a notice of violation to the
state (33 U.S.C. §1319(a)(1)); when the state has “commenced and is diligently prosecuting” an action under
comparable state law; or when a penalty assessed under a state-issued final order has been paid, the violation will not
be subject of a civil penalty action under §1319(d) §1321(b) or §1365 (33 U.S.C. §1319(g)(6)).
34 Ellen R. Zahren, Overfiling Under Federalism: Federal Nipping at State Heels to Protect the Environment, 49
Emory L. J. 373, 375 n.18 (2000); Joel A. Mintz, Enforcement “Overfiling” in the Federal Courts: Some Thoughts on
the Post-Harmon Cases, 21 Virginia Envtl. L. J. 425, 427 (2003). Jeffrey G. Miller, Theme & Variations in Statutory
Preclusions Against Successive Environmental Enforcement Actions by EPA & Citizens, Part II Statutory Preclusions
on EPA Enforcement, 29 Harvard Envtl. L. Rev. 1, 3 (2005)
35 EPA-approved/authorized state programs generally do not apply in Indian country.
36 Some pollution control laws have been amended to clarify the role of tribal governments in the implementation of
federal environmental programs. For example, from 1986 to 1990, Congress amended the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C.
§ 1377(e)(2)), Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. § 300j-11(b)(1)(B)), and Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. §7601(d)(2)(B)
to authorize EPA to treat Indian tribes in the same manner as states for purposes of program authorization.
37 For example, see Executive Order No. 13175 on Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments, 65
Federal Register 67249 (November 9, 2000); Executive Memorandum on Government-to-Government Relations with
Native American Tribal Governments, April 29, 1994.
38 Issued by President Ronald Reagan, the policy expanded the 1970 national Indian policy of self-determination for
39 In conjunction with the 1983 overall federal policy statement, EPA consolidated existing agency statements into a
Relatively few tribes have obtained authority for implementing federal pollution control laws, and
EPA identified tribal environmental compliance as a national enforcement and compliance
priority in its FY2005-FY2007 enforcement strategic plan in an effort to enhance tribal
governments’ capabilities to implement federal environmental statutes. The primary focus areas
in the tribal strategy, which has been retained as a priority in the FY2008-FY2011 enforcement
strategic plan, are public drinking water systems, federal pollution control statutes applicable to 40
schools, and unregulated dumping of solid waste.
Private individuals play an important role in enforcing certain aspects of federal pollution control
laws. Citizen participation, specifically authorized by Congress in many of the federal pollution
control statutes, occurs in several ways. Individuals can identify and report violations of the laws,
provide comments on settlements that are reached between the federal government and violators
of the environmental laws in enforcement cases, and initiate enforcement proceedings directly in
response to alleged violations. In addition, individuals may bring actions against the EPA for 41
failing to execute nondiscretionary duties required under federal environmental laws.
To further enhance public participation and reporting of potential environmental violations, EPA-42
OECA introduced the “National Report a Violation” website in January 2006. The website
provides access to OECA’s online citizens’ tips and complaints form. EPA reported that the
number of citizen tips and complaints increased from 1,485 in FY2005 to 3,274 in FY2006. The
majority of these FY2006 citizen submissions (2,800) were referred to civil enforcement, and 43
roughly 480 tips were referred to criminal agents according to EPA.
The size and diversity of the regulated community are vast, spanning numerous industrial and
nonindustrial entities, small and large, and their operations. The following discussion provides an
overview of the regulated community, and highlights the role and activities of the key regulated
entities in the enforcement of the primary pollution control statutes.
The universe of the regulated community as a whole is very large (see discussion below). The
majority of those in the regulated community are required to comply with multiple statutes
because of the nature of their activities and operations. The regulated community includes a
diverse range of entities and operations, including utilities, refineries, manufacturing and
processing facilities, agriculture producers and processors, mobile sources (e.g., private and
commercial vehicles), and others. Local, state, tribal and federal governments are also part of the
single policy statement to ensure consistency. See EPA Policy for the Administration of Environmental Programs on
Indian Reservations, http://www.epa.gov/superfund/community/relocation/policy.htm.
40 EPA-OECA, National Priorities for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Enforcement and Compliance
Assurance Priority: Indian Country, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/priorities/tribal.html.
41 Although not strictly speaking “enforcement,” citizens may also petition for review of agency actions under a
program statute or the Administrative Procedure Act.
42 EPA-OECA, National Report a Violation, http://www.epa.gov/tips.
43 EPA-OECA, Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results: Report a Violation, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/
regulated community, as they are engaged in a range of activities and operations—utilities,
construction, waste and wastewater management, drinking water management, transportation,
pest management—that generate pollution similar to nongovernment sectors.
Regulated entities vary in their activities and operations, and in size—ranging from small
individual business operations such as dry-cleaners to facilities and operations that are part of
large corporations and conglomerates. Regulatory agencies generally categorize regulated entities
into minor and major emitters/dischargers based on factors such as total earnings, number of
employees, production volume, and amount of emissions, for purposes of implementing and
enforcing the various statutes. In certain circumstances, some of the pollution control statutes
make specific distinctions with regard to major and minor emitters/dischargers. A designation of
“major” generally applies to those entities that, because of their size or operations, have the
potential to have a significant impact on the environment. Most of the statutes and accompanying
regulations include authorities for reducing the stringency, and in some cases providing
exemptions from regulatory requirements to minimize their impacts on small businesses and
There is no readily available, current, comprehensive list and description of the complete universe
of those who are regulated under all of the major pollution control statutes. EPA has been
criticized for not adequately defining the regulated universe, a step that GAO determined to be a 44
critical component necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of enforcement. EPA-OECA
compiled data regarding the size of the regulated community in September 2001, and estimated a 45
total universe of more than 41 million. Although cited by EPA subsequently from time to time,
most commonly in strategic planning documents, the agency has not updated the estimate.
There are, however, data and information that provide some indications of the size and diversity
of this universe—for example, in EPA’s primary enforcement and compliance databases (see
additional discussion in Appendix). EPA’s publicly available Enforcement and Compliance
History Online (ECHO) contains more than 880,000 unique facility records for compliance with
CWA, CAA, and RCRA. These records are primarily based on permitted facilities. Another EPA
centrally managed database is the Facility Registry System (FRS), which primarily identifies
“facilities, sites or places” subject to federal pollution control requirements; it contains more than
CAA, and RCRA, but includes information reported regarding CERCLA sites. It does not include
information indicating the universe regulated under other statutes. In yet another source, the
ECOS indicated that states reported that more than 3 million regulated facilities required state 46
agency oversight for environmental compliance in 2003. The differences in the various sources
are an indication of the difficulty involved in accurately and consistently tracking the size of the
44 EPA-OIG, Limited Knowledge of the Universe of Regulated Entities Impedes EPA’s Ability to Demonstrate
Changes in Regulatory Compliance, 2005-P-00024, September 19, 2005 (http://www.epa.gov/oig/); and GAO, Human
Capital: Implementing an Effective Workforce Strategy Would Help EPA to Achieve Its Strategic Goals, GAO-01-812,
pp. 24-25, July 2001, http://www.gao.gov/docsearch/repandtest.html.
45 EPA-OECA, OECA Regulatory Universe Identification Table. Internal EPA memorandum November 15, 2001,
EPA-OIG, Limited Knowledge of the Universe of Regulated Entities Impedes EPA’s Ability to Demonstrate Changes in
Regulatory Compliance, 2005-P-00024, September 19, 2005, http://www.epa.gov/oig/.
46 ECOS, State Environmental Contributions to Enforcement and Compliance:2000-2003, June 2006, http://ecos.org/
EPA’s various program offices (e.g., air, water, and waste) maintain and publish information and
profiles regarding characterizations of regulated entities and their operations. Generally included
are estimates of the types and amounts of emissions and discharges, or wastes being handled. For
example, EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) maintains a national database of air emissions 47
estimates for individual point- or major-source categories. The database contains information on 48
stationary and mobile sources that emit common (“criteria”) air pollutants and their precursors, 49
as well as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). The categories presented in these sources do not
reflect 100% of the total number of facilities being regulated.
Another source for characterizing the sectors of the regulated community are EPA’s “Sector 50
Notebooks.” EPA has defined sectors as distinct parts of the economy that share similar
operations, processes or practices, environmental problems, and compliance issues. EPA
recognizes that there are likely a number of circumstances where regulated entities within specific
geographic regions may have unique characteristics that are not fully reflected in the profiles
contained in the sector notebooks. In addition, some of the notebooks were completed several
years ago. Nevertheless, notebook profiles provide fairly comprehensive characterizations of key
sectors included within the regulated community. Table 2 lists the sectors for which the agency
has completed sector notebooks.
Table 2. EPA Industry and Government Sectors
Available Sector Notebooks
Aerospace Food Processing Power Generators
Agriculture Furniture Printing
Automotive Healthcare Pulp/Paper/Lumber
Chemicals Local Government Operations Rubber/Plastics
Computers/Electronics Metals Shipbuilding and Repair
Construction Minerals/Mining/Processing Textiles
Dry Cleaning Petroleum Transportation
Federal Facilities Pharmaceuticals
Source: Table generated by CRS with information from EPA’s Sector Compliance Assistance and Sector
Notebooks website, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/assistance/sectors/index.html.
47 EPA, National Emissions Inventories for the U.S., http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/index.html.
48 Under §106 of the Clean Air Act, EPA has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for six principal pollutants
classified by the EPA as “criteria pollutants”: sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO),
ozone, lead, and particulate matter.
49 Under §112 of the Clean Air Act, EPA is to establish technology-based emission standards, called “MACT”
standards, for sources of 188 pollutants listed in the legislation, and to specify categories of sources subject to the
50 For more information regarding EPA’s Sector Compliance Assistance and Sector Notebooks, see
Unless a statutory exemption exists, federal facilities are subject to the federal pollution control 51
statutes, and generally also must adhere to the environmental laws and regulations of the states
and municipalities in which they are located, to the same extent as others in the regulated
community. EPA reported that it concluded 35 enforcement actions against federal agencies for
alleged violations of federal pollution control laws during 2008, resulting in an estimated 52
reduction of more than 1.7 million pounds of pollutants. Federal agencies are also subject to 53
relevant requirements of executive orders.
Regulating federal facilities under pollution control laws presents certain unique challenges.
Although all are potentially subject to pollution control laws and regulations, a majority of federal
agencies and their facilities are not involved in activities that would generally warrant compliance
requirements. According to EPA, facilities operated by DOD and DOE make up a significant 54
portion of the universe of “major” federal facilities. Major federal facilities generally refer to
those facilities that, because of their size or operations, have the potential to have a significant
impact on the environment. Compliance/enforcement information for DOD and DOE is reported
individually, while other federal agencies are generally categorized together as Civilian Federal 55
Agencies. GAO observed that DOD and DOE together accounted for 99% of the federal 56
government’s environmental liabilities as of FY2004. Most of these liabilities consist of the
estimated cost to safely dispose of solid and hazardous waste generated from day-to-day
operations, and to clean contamination from releases into the environment.
The major federal pollution control laws provide EPA with authorities to enforce requirements
and impose penalties at federal facilities that are not in compliance. The Federal Facility
51 Most federal environmental laws contain provisions that subject federal facilities to federal, state, and local
requirements, and allow such facilities to be sued just as a nongovernmental entity. In addition, such provisions
generally grant the President authority to exempt federal facilities from such requirements when in the “paramount
interest” or (less commonly) the “national security interest” of the United States. See Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. §7418),
Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1323), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (42 U.S.C. §6961), and Safe Drinking
Water Act (42 U.S.C. §300j-6). A more limited federal facility provision and presidential exemption is found in the
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (42 U.S.C. §9620). The Toxic Substances
Control Act nowhere expressly states that federal facilities are subject to the statute, but nonetheless does authorize
presidential exemptions (15 U.S.C. §2621). For discussion of exemptions, particularly as they pertain to DOD, see CRS
Report RS22149, Exemptions from Environmental Law for the Department of Defense (DOD), by David M. Bearden.
52 EPA-OECA, Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results: FY2008 Federal Facilities, http://www.epa.gov/
53 For examples of executive orders with directives addressing environmental management at federal facilities, see
EPA’s Federal Facilities Sector Notebook: A Profile of Federal Facilities, EPA 300-B-96-03, January 1996, pgs. 2-11
and 2-12, available at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/assistance/sectors/index.html.
54 EPA Federal Facilities Enforcement Office, The State of Federal Facilities An Overview of Environmental
Compliance at Federal Facilities FY 2003-2004. EPA Document No: EPA 300-R-05-004. November 2005.
56 DOE accounted for $182 billion of the estimated environmental compliance costs. Nearly all of this amount was for
the cleanup of nuclear weapons production sites. DOD accounted for $64 billion of the estimated costs. Most of this
amount was for the cleanup of contamination from the past release of hazardous substances, and the cleanup of military
training ranges where unexploded ordnance is present. The disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear-powered ships
and submarines, and the disposal of chemical weapons stockpiles required by the Chemical Weapons Conventions, also
constituted a sizeable portion of these costs. GAO, Environmental Liabilities: Long-Term Fiscal Planning Hampered
by Control Weaknesses and Uncertainties in the Federal Government’s Estimates, March 2006. GAO-06-427.
Compliance Act of 1992 specifically amended RCRA to clarify that DOD and all other federal
facilities are subject to penalties, fines, permit fees, reviews of plans or studies, and inspection
and monitoring of facilities in connection with federal, state, interstate, or local solid or hazardous 57
waste regulatory programs. The SDWA includes similar language regarding federal facilities,
but most of the other federal environmental laws do not include such specific provisions.
CERCLA (Superfund) §120 requires federal agencies with NPL sites to investigate and clean up
the contamination, and significantly contaminated federal facility sites have been listed on EPA’s
National Priorities List (NPL). Whether other pollution control laws should be amended to clarify
their applicability to federal facilities has been an issue of debate in Congress.
EPA and states apply a set of environmental enforcement tools to identify and correct
noncompliance, restore environmental damage, and impose penalties intended to deter future
violations. Compliance with pollution control laws is addressed through a continuum of response
mechanisms, ranging from compliance assistance to administrative and civil enforcement, to the
stronger criminal enforcement. The spectra of tools, which escalate in terms of their level of
severity and intensity, are authorized in each of the environmental statutes. The following sections
of this report provide a brief overview of the various enforcement response mechanisms.
Over the years, EPA and states have sought to effectively balance the provision of guidance and
assistance to prevent violations or achieve compliance by regulated entities with federal pollution
control requirements, with the imposition of strong enforcement actions in response to violations.
Some critics have depicted environmental enforcement as overly litigious, or requiring
unwarranted remedies. Others counter that actions are not pursued with enough rigor and
frequency, or that penalties are not severe enough to deter noncompliance. EPA officials have
countered that, in some instances, the agency is relying more on settlements and focusing on
requiring increased expenditures on pollution control technologies, and that it is focusing judicial
actions on larger and more complex cases that are expected to result in larger environmental
EPA and states maintain a considerable degree of flexibility in determining how to respond to
potential violations, to the extent authorized by individual statutes. Initially, a potential violation
is identified through monitoring, inspecting, citizen reporting, or through self-reporting by the
regulated entity. As a first step in the enforcement process, unless an imminent danger or hazard
has been determined, EPA and states may attempt to obtain corrective actions by simply issuing a
warning or notifying a facility that minor violations may exist, and granting reasonable time for
compliance. EPA or a state may then (or sometimes as a first step) initiate a civil administrative
action under its own authority without involving the judicial process, or file formal civil or 58
criminal judicial actions in court.
Sanctions imposed, whether through negotiated settlements or decisions by the court, generally
include required actions to achieve compliance and to correct environmental damage (injunctive
relief), and may include monetary penalties (and incarceration in the case of criminal violations).
57 42 U.S.C. §6961.
58 For persons who willfully or knowingly disregard the law.
More recently, settlements have also included requirements that violators undertake mutually 59
agreed-upon environmentally beneficial projects supplemental to other sanctions.
As noted, EPA, states, and the courts have considerable discretion in determining sanctions and
remedies on a case-by-case basis so that the individual circumstances of each case are
appropriately addressed. A majority of environmental violations are addressed and resolved
administratively by states and EPA, and many of these cases are settled through negotiations
between the government and the alleged violator. For example, during FY2008, EPA issued 1,390
administrative orders and filed 2,056 administrative penalty order complaints. In comparison,
during FY2008, EPA filed 164 civil judicial cases with the court, and 192 civil judicial 60
enforcement cases were concluded. Civil judicial cases constitute the second largest category of
environmental enforcement actions. Historically, judicial actions focused on violation of a single
environmental statute. In recent years, EPA and states have increased the frequency of reliance on
a multimedia (multi-statute) approach and multimedia investigations.
The number of administrative and judicial enforcement actions and penalties often fluctuate
significantly from year to year. These fluctuations are generally a reflection of a combination of
factors, including statutory deadlines; new or amended requirements in response to new scientific
information or amended and new regulations; increased or decreased resources; environmental
priority changes at the federal or state levels; and increased or improved monitoring/reporting.
For example, EPA reported that the number of administrative penalty order complaints issued by
the agency more than doubled, from 2,229 complaints in FY2005 to 4,647 in FY2006, then 61
declined in FY2007 to 2,237 and to 2,056 in FY2008. Additionally, the total dollar amount of
penalties collected in a given year could reflect the completion of one or two large cases. For
example, EPA reported that a single case accounted for 62% of the total civil penalties assessed
for FY2004. Illustrations of the frequency of enforcement actions by type over time are presented
in the Appendix; this appendix also includes illustrations of administrative and judicial penalties
assessed over time by statute.
Critical steps in enforcing environmental laws include the compilation of monitoring data, and
inspection and evaluation of the activities of the regulated community to determine who is
complying with applicable regulatory requirements and permit conditions, and who is not.
Compliance monitoring, evaluations, and investigations all serve to identify violations and
provide insights into potential priority issue areas that may need to be addressed more broadly.
Monitoring and reporting can be both media program-based (e.g., air, water, waste) and sector-
based (e.g., industrial, mobile source, utilities), and are often included in permit requirements.
Data reported and obtained, as well as observations and evidence collected by inspectors, enable
EPA and states to identify specific environmental problems and determine whether a facility is in
compliance. The information and evidence could eventually be used in an enforcement action.
The mere collection of information or threat of inspection itself often creates an awareness of the
regulators’ interest, and can encourage compliance.
59 See the discussion later in this report on Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs).
60 EPA-OECA, EPA FY2008 Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results Report, December 2008, http://epa.gov/
EPA identifies several forms of compliance monitoring that are used differently by the agency and
states, depending upon the statute, the nature of the pollutants, and the types of facilities being
• Self-Monitoring/Reporting: Most environmental laws require (typically through
permitting) regulated entities/facilities to monitor and record their own
compliance status and report some or all of the tracking results to the responsible
regulating authority. In addition to informing the regulators, self-monitoring also
allows a company to measure its performance and evaluate its strategies for
achieving or maintaining compliance.
• Review of Records: Regulatory agencies review data and information reported
or otherwise compiled and collected.
• Full and Partial Inspections/Evaluations:62 Individual facility environmental
inspections, conducted by EPA regional staff and the states, are the primary tool
used by regulators for initial assessment of compliance. Through sampling,
emissions testing, and other measures, inspections examine environmental
conditions at a facility to determine compliance (or noncompliance) with specific
environmental requirements, and to determine whether conditions present
imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.
Inspections/evaluations can be conducted all at once or in a series of partial
• Area Monitoring: Area monitoring looks at environmental conditions in the
vicinity of a facility, or across a certain geographic area. Examples of methods
used for area monitoring include ambient monitoring and remote sensing.
According to the EPA’s most recent reported trends data, a total of 20,000 EPA enforcement 63
inspections and evaluations were conducted under the various statutes during FY2008. Although
most inspections are carried out by the states, annual data for the total number of inspections
conducted by states are not readily available due to data-reporting variability and other
limitations. Based on a subset of states surveyed, ECOS reported that roughly 136,000
compliance inspections were conducted by states in 2003 for the major federal environmental 64
programs—air, drinking water, surface and groundwater, hazardous waste, and solid waste. The
total number of inspections reported by ECOS does not account for all inspections conducted by
states under federal pollution control programs—for example, inspections under FIFRA are not
included. In reports to EPA by states under the Pesticide Enforcement Grant program, states,
tribes and territories reported between 90,000 and 100,000 FIFRA inspections each fiscal year for
FY2006 and FY2007. These FIFRA activities, typically administered by states’ departments of
agriculture, are not reflected in the EPA or the ECOS totals.
To put the ECOS number of inspections into perspective, in 2003, the ECOS survey identified
440,000 regulated facilities under these five major environmental programs. EPA’s Facility
62 The CWA requires evaluations instead of investigations, which include reviewing reports, records, and operating
logs; assessing air pollution control devices and operations; and observing visible emissions or conducting stack tests.
63 EPA-OECA, EPA FY2008 Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results Report, December 2008, http://epa.gov/
64 “State Environmental Agency Contributions to Enforcement and Compliance: 2000-2003,” the Environmental
Council of the States (ECOS), June 2006.
Registry System (FRS), which identifies facilities and sites subject to federal environmental
regulation, currently contains unique records for more than 1.5 million facilities (see the above
discussion under the heading Regulated Community). The Appendix presents data on the number
of inspections conducted annually by EPA over time.
As noted earlier, a majority of environmental pollution control violations are addressed and
resolved administratively by states and EPA without involving a judicial process. EPA or a state
environmental regulatory agency may informally communicate to a regulated entity that there is
an environmental problem, or it may initiate a formal administrative action in the form of a notice
of violation or an Administrative Order to obtain compliance. An Administrative Order imposes
legally enforceable requirements for achieving compliance, generally within a specified time
frame, and may or may not include sanctions and penalties.
An initial step in the enforcement process is often a Notice of Violation, or in some instances, a
warning letter. Warning letters are issued mostly for first-time violations that do not present an
imminent hazard. These notifications are intended to encourage regulated entities to correct
existing problems themselves and come into compliance as quickly as possible. According to
EPA, in many cases, these notices are not escalated to further formal enforcement action because
a facility corrects problems and returns to compliance in response to the notice.
Through administrative enforcement actions, the EPA and states may (1) require that the violator
take specific actions to comply with federal environmental standards, (2) revoke the violator’s
permit to discharge, and/or (3) assess a penalty for noncompliance. As indicated previously,
administrative actions frequently end in negotiated settlements. These mutually agreed-upon
resolutions are typically in the form of a Consent Agreement or Final Administrative
Order/Penalty. According to EPA’s FY2008 annual results, during FY2008, EPA initiated 1,390
administrative compliance orders and 2,056 administrative penalty order complaints. EPA
imposed penalties in 2,084 final administrative penalty orders during FY2008, representing a total 65
value of $38.2 million.
Federal administrative orders are handled through an administrative adjudicatory process, filed
before an administrative law judge (ALJ), or, in the regions, by EPA’s regional judicial officers
(RJOs). The EPA Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) is an independent office within 6667
the agency. ALJs, appointed by the EPA Administrator, perform adjudicatory functions and
render decisions in proceedings between the EPA and individuals, entities, federal and state
government agencies, and others, with regard to administrative actions taken to enforce
environmental laws and regulations. RJOs, designated by each of the EPA Regional 68
Administrators, perform similar adjudicatory functions in the EPA regions. Decisions issued by
ALJs and RJOs are subject to review and appeal to the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), 69
which also functions independently of EPA. Environmental Appeals Judges are appointed by the
65 EPA-OECA, EPA FY2008 Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results Report, December 2008, http://epa.gov/
66 Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 557.
67 5 U.S.C. §3105.
68 Title 40 CFR Part 22 Subpart A § 22.4(b).
69 Title 40 C.F.R. Part 22 Subpart A § 22.8.
EPA Administrator.70 Federal pollution control laws and regulations specify who may raise an
issue before the EAB, and under what circumstances. EAB decisions frequently involve reviews
of the terms of federal environmental permits and the amount of assessed financial administrative
After civil administrative enforcement actions, civil judicial cases constitute the next-largest
category of environmental enforcement. These are lawsuits filed in court against persons or
entities who allegedly have not complied with statutory or regulatory requirements, or, in some
cases, with an Administrative Order. Authorities for pursuing civil judicial actions and penalties
are specified in each of the individual environmental statutes. Civil judicial cases are brought in
federal district court by DOJ on behalf of EPA, and, for the states, by State Attorneys General.
Not all of the cases referred to DOJ are filed with the court. The length of a civil case from its
initiation to completion is highly variable, often extending across several years and sometimes
across different presidential administrations. Like administrative enforcement actions, many civil
judicial actions end as negotiated settlements, typically in the form of Consent Decrees. During
FY2008, EPA-OECA referred 280 civil judicial cases to DOJ; 164 civil judicial complaints were
filed with the court; and 192 cases were concluded (refers to cases filed during FY2008 and prior
States and EPA may initiate criminal enforcement actions against individuals or entities for
negligent or knowing violations of federal pollution control law. Criminal actions are especially
pursued when a defendant knew, or should have known, that injury or harm would result.
Knowing criminal violations of pollution control requirements are considered deliberate, and not
the result of accident or error. In addition to the imposition of monetary fines and requirements to
correct a violation and restore damages, conviction of a criminal environmental violation can
result in imprisonment. EPA reported that 319 new environmental crime cases were opened 71
during FY2008, about 5% less than in FY2007. Authorities for pursuit of criminal actions vary
under each of the statutes. For example, under the SDWA (42 U.S.C. §300h-2(b)), the criminal
violations must be deemed willful—that is, they were committed with intent to do something
prohibited by that law; the CWA (33 U.S.C. §1319(c)) authorizes criminal sanctions against those
who have knowingly or negligently violated that statute.
Recent examples of criminal actions include the illegal disposal of hazardous waste; importation
of certain banned, restricted or regulated chemicals; the export of hazardous waste without prior
notification or permission of the receiving country; the removal and disposal of regulated
asbestos-containing materials inconsistent with requirements of the law and regulations;
70 Title 40 C.F.R. § 1.25(e). EAB judges are Senior Executive Service (“SES”)-level career Agency attorneys (U.S.
EPA, The Environmental Appeals Board Practice Manual, June 2004, available at http://www.epa.gov/eab/
71 EPA, Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results: FY2008 Criminal Enforcement, http://www.epa.gov/
tampering with a drinking water supply; and negligent maintenance resulting in discharge of 72
The EPA-OECA Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training (OCEFT), the office to
which the agency’s criminal investigators are primarily assigned, oversees implementation of the
agency’s federal environmental crimes investigation program. Within DOJ, the U.S. Attorneys
Offices and ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section (ECS) prosecute criminal cases and work
closely with EPA’s OCEFT investigators. State and local law enforcement agencies and their
environmental protection-related agencies, and other federal agencies, are also often key
participants in federal environmental criminal actions. To facilitate investigations and cases, 73
environmental crime task forces have been established nationally. These task forces are
composed of representatives from federal (including representatives from DOJ-ECS and special
agents from EPA), state, and local law enforcement, and environmental regulatory enforcement.
The FBI, DOT, Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, SEC, IRS, and
other relevant federal agencies also may play significant roles.
An increased emphasis on criminal enforcement of the pollution control laws occurred in the mid
1970s with the issuance of extensive guidelines for proceeding in criminal cases, and in 1981
with the creation of an Office of Criminal Enforcement and the hiring of criminal investigators in
EPA’s regional offices. During the late 1980s, criminal environmental enforcement was further
enhanced when Congress conferred full law enforcement powers upon EPA criminal investigators
as part of the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 (18 U.S.C. §3063). Further, under Title II of
the Pollution Prosecution Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-593), Congress authorized the appointment of a
director of a new Office of Criminal Investigations within EPA, and mandated the hiring of 200 74
criminal investigators by FY1996.
EPA’s criminal enforcement agents are authorized law enforcement officers who, in addition to
investigating federal environmental statutes, investigate U.S. Criminal Code (Title 18) violations
often associated with environmental crimes, such as conspiracy, false statements, and interfering
with federal investigations. As noted, Congress has been concerned with the staffing of criminal
investigators. The number of EPA special agents went from about 50 in 1990 to more than 200 by 75
1998. As of September 2007, the number of EPA investigators had dropped to 168; this decline
was an issue of concern in Congress and elsewhere. EPA has indicated that as part of an OECA
three-year hiring strategy, it plans to hire additional criminal investigators during FY2008,
FY2009, and FY2010, to increase the number of agents supporting the criminal enforcement 76
program to 200. Table 3 shows the number of EPA investigators assigned to the criminal
72 For examples of criminal cases for various fiscal years, see EPA’s compliance and enforcement annual results
website at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/endofyear/eoy2008/2008results.html.
73 For a listing of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division Offices and associated Environmental Crimes Task Force
Teams throughout the United States, see http://www.epa.gov/Compliance/criminal/intergovernmental/
74 For a historical perspective of EPA’s criminal enforcement, see EPA Review of the Office of Criminal Enforcement,
Forensics, and Training, November 2003, http://www.epa.gov/Compliance/resources/publications/criminal/oceft-
76 Based on information provided directly to CRS by EPA’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations,
October 31, 2007, and March 26, 2008.
enforcement program for FY1997 through September FY2008, and projections for FY2009 and 77
Table 3. Number of EPA Criminal Investigators:
Fiscal Year Number of Investigators
Source: Prepared by CRS with data provided by EPA’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations,
Oct. 31, 2007, and March 26, 2008.
Note: The number of agents listed for 2002-2004 includes investigators who performed a mix of environmental
crimes and homeland security work. The number of agents in FY2005 and FY2006 includes a cumulative total of
1.5 FTEs for specialized national security event response training of 25 agents so they can be deployed, if needed,
to respond to a national security event.
Settlements often require that violators achieve compliance and remedy environmental damages
(injunctive relief). Monetary penalties may be included. Sanctions can also include permanent or
temporary closure of facilities or specific operations, increased monitoring/reporting, revocation
of existing permits or denial of future permits, and barring of receipt of federal contract funding 79
or other federal assistance. The settlement-required corrective and compliance actions, and the
monetary penalties (and possibly incarceration for criminal violations), are intended to
78 In the context of this report, “sanctions” refer to adverse consequences imposed in response to noncompliance.
79 2 CFR Part 180, 2 CFR Part 1532, and Executive Order 12549. Debarment is also authorized following criminal
conviction under Clean Water Act (§508) and Clean Air Act (§306). See information regarding EPA’s suspension and
debarment program at http://www.epa.gov/ogd/sdd/debarment.htm.
correspond directly with the specific violations (noncompliance) and the extent (or “gravity”) of
Monetary penalties collected by the federal government as a result of an environmental 80
enforcement agreement, order, or decision, are deposited with the U.S. Treasury. However,
under CERCLA (Superfund) and CWA, money recovered for the costs of replacing or restoring 81
natural resources is used to restore the resources. States may have the explicit administrative
authority to impose penalties under individual federal statutes. For example, the Safe Drinking
Water Act requires (unless prohibited by a state’s constitution) administrative penalty authority
for states in certain dollar amounts as a condition of obtaining and/or retaining primacy for the 82
Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) Program (§1413 (a)(6)). Currently, 55 of 57 states 83
and territories have primacy authority for the PWSS program. Although authorized under
several of the other federal pollution control laws, EPA has not required—and not all states have
obtained—administrative penalty authority. In some states, unlike the federal government,
penalties obtained (or shared) as a result of an environmental enforcement action can be used to
directly fund activities for environmental agencies and programs in the state, and not always to
fund the state’s general treasury.
In certain cases where the federal government has led the enforcement action, a state or states
involved in the action may “share” resulting civil monetary penalties to the extent that the
division is permitted by federal, state, and local law. A number of critical factors must be 84
considered in accordance with EPA guidance when determining division of penalties, including
the state’s active participation in prosecuting the case and its authority to collect civil penalties.
EPA’s guidance emphasizes that an agreement to include a division of civil penalties with states
must be completed prior to issuance of a final settlement (order or consent decree).
The several statutes establish various factors to be considered in determining penalties: (1) the
magnitude of environmental harm and the seriousness or gravity of a violation; (2) the economic
benefit or gain to the violator as a result of illegal activity (noncompliance), including the gaining
of a competitive advantage by the delaying or avoidance of pollution control expenditures that
have been incurred by those in compliance; (3) violation history of the violator; and (4), in some
circumstances, the ability of the violator to pay. Other factors, such as the degree of cooperation
by the violator, whether the violation is self-reported, or the extent to which immediate action has
been taken by the violator to mitigate potential harm, may also be considered. Precedents in
previous cases involving similar violations are also a consideration when determining penalties.
The federal pollution control statutes include civil administrative and judicial penalty assessment
authority and limits, which are to be considered by ALJs or the courts in determining the
appropriate penalty. Figure A-3 in the Appendix presents examples of dollar amounts of civil
administrative, civil judicial, and criminal penalties assessed by EPA for the 20-year period
80 Under the Miscellaneous Receipts Act (31 U.S.C. §3302(b)), all court, or administratively imposed penalties must be
paid by the government official receiving the monies to the U.S. Treasury.
81 See, for example, 33 U.S.C. §1321(f)(5).
82 SDWA, 42 U.S.C. §300g-2(a)(6), added by SDWA Amendments of 1996 (P.L. 104-182).
83 See CRS Report RL31243, Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): A Summary of the Act and Its Major Requirements, by
84 EPA guidance for the “Division of Penalties with State and Local Governments,” memorandum from Courtney M.
Price, Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Monitoring, October 30, 1985.
FY1989-FY2008. According to EPA, a significant portion of the reported total annual dollar
amount of all penalties assessed often reflects penalties assessed in a few cases, and, in some
years, a single case. For example, EPA reported that a major RCRA case accounted for 26% of
the total value of civil penalties reported in FY2006, and that, in FY2005, penalties assessed in a
single RCRA corrective action case accounted for 53% of the reported assessed civil penalties for 85
EPA and DOJ have established several policies and guidelines to be considered by counsel when 86
negotiating agreements and setting penalties. EPA-OECA has also developed five computer
models including models for calculating economic advantage, costs of Supplemental
Environmental Projects (SEPs; see discussion under the heading “Supplemental Environmental
Projects (SEPS)”), and for measuring the ability to afford compliance requirements and penalties.
The latter models vary depending on whether a violator is an individual, municipality, individual
facility, or business entity (small business, large corporation, or conglomerate partnership).
Findings of limited ability or inability to pay are one factor under which an enforcement case may
be settled for less than the economic benefit of noncompliance. The models are to be used in 87
conjunction with the policies and guidelines for calculating civil penalties. The available models
• BEN, for calculating economic advantage/savings from avoidance of
• ABEL, for measuring a noncompliant entity’s (e.g., a corporation’s) ability to
afford compliance and cleanup, and civil penalties;
• INDIPAY, for measuring an individual violator’s ability to afford compliance and
cleanup, and civil penalties;
• MUNIPAY, for measuring a noncompliant municipality’s ability to afford
compliance and cleanup, and civil penalties; and
• PROJECT, for calculating cost to a violator of undertaking a SEP (see the
discussion regarding SEPs later this report).
Most federal pollution control statutes contain a provision expressly subjecting federal facilities
to federal (and state and local) environmental regulation, and waiving sovereign immunity
(thereby allowing federal agencies to be sued by nonfederal entities). Further, many federal
environmental statutes authorize (or arguably authorize) EPA, states, and local governments to
85 EPA, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, FY2006 OECA Accomplishments Report, Spring 2007,
86 For example, EPA’s revised Consolidated Rules of Practice (“CROP”) ( 64 FR 40138, July 23, 1999) contains
procedural rules for the administrative assessment of civil penalties, issuance of compliance or corrective action orders,
and the revocation, termination or suspension of permits, under most environmental statutes. See EPA’s Web page,
Civil Penalty Policies, at http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/civil/penalty/.
87 Additionally, see EPA, Guidance on Calculating the Economic Benefit of Noncompliance by Federal Agencies,
issued on February 13, 2006, Memorandum from Granta Y. Nakayama, Assistant Administrator, Office of
Enforcement Compliance and Assurance, http://www.epa.gov/Compliance/resources/policies/federalfacilities/
88 Prepared by Robert Meltz, Legislative Attorney, American Law Division.
assess civil monetary penalties against federal agencies. (The Supreme Court has rejected state 89
authority to do so under the CWA.) DOJ has issued opinions concluding that the CAA and
RCRA underground storage tank provisions give EPA authority to assess civil money penalties
against federal facilities. However, DOJ limits these conclusions to administrative assessment of
penalties. Citing its constitutional theory of the “unitary executive,” DOJ has historically refused
to allow EPA to enforce judicially against other federal agencies, though case law has consistently
been to the contrary. In contrast with EPA enforcement, there is no longer serious doubt that the
Constitution allows states and other nonfederal entities to use the citizen suit provisions in federal
environmental statutes to judicially enforce those laws against federal facilities.
During FY2008, EPA concluded 36 enforcement actions against federal facilities, and assessed
more than $1.4 million in penalties. Federal agencies committed to invest more than $23 million 90
to improve their facilities and operations to remedy (clean up) past violations.
In addition to requiring violators to achieve and maintain compliance, and imposing appropriate
sanctions and penalties, enforcement settlements may also include Supplement Environmental 91
Projects (SEPs). SEPs are projects that provide environmental and human health benefits that a
violator may voluntarily agree to undertake in exchange for mitigation of penalties. A project
must be related to the violation, and cannot be an activity the violator is legally required to take to
achieve compliance. Penalties are to be mitigated by a SEP only during settlement negotiation,
prior to imposition of the final penalty.
EPA has established a SEPs policy and developed guidance for their legal requirements and 92
applicability, and has specified eight categories of acceptable projects. These include pollution
prevention, public health, and emergency and preparedness planning. EPA reported that 188 civil 93
settlement cases during FY2008 included SEPs at an estimated value of $39.0 million.
The incorporation of SEPs into enforcement actions has become a more commonly used
enforcement tool in recent years, particularly by federal regulators, because of the potential for
direct environmental benefit from such projects, versus the use of a monetary fine or penalty
alone. Some states with administrative penalty authority are also employing the use of SEPs in 94
their settlements. Although these projects are required to be supplemental to other requirements,
some contend that, in practice, inclusion of SEPs may result in lower monetary fines. The extent
to which specific SEPs may have resulted in reduced monetary fines and penalties is not easily
89 U.S. Dept. Of Energy v. Ohio, 503 U.S. 607 (1992).
90 EPA-OECA, Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results: FY2008 Federal Facilities,
91 For more information regarding SEPs, see http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/seps/index.html.
92 Policy and guidance documents related to EPA’s Supplemental Environmental Projects Policy are available at
93 EPA-OECA, Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results: FY2008 Numbers at a Glance,
94 The Environmental Council of States (ECOS), State Environmental Agency Contributions to Enforcement and
Compliance 2000-2003, June 2006.
The concept of “environmental justice” has been a controversial topic of debate among industry
and public interest groups, and continues to be a concern highlighted in legislation and th
congressional hearings. During the 110 Congress, hearings have been held by committees in the 95
House and the Senate, and legislation has been introduced, including H.R. 1972, the
Community Environmental Equity Act; H.R. 4652, the Environmental Justice Access and
Implementation Act of 2007; companion bills H.R. 1103 and S. 642, the Environmental Justice
Act of 2007, H.R. 5132 and S. 2549, the Environmental Justice Renewal Act, and, H.R. 5896 and
S. 2918, the Environmental Justice Enforcement Act. Discussion of the full scope of issues and
concerns regarding environmental justice is beyond the scope of this report. However, the
following discussion briefly highlights environmental justice in the context of enforcement and
The terms “environmental justice (or injustice)” and “environmental equity (or inequity)” may be
interpreted broadly to describe the perceived level of fairness in the distribution of environmental
quality across groups of people with different characteristics. In this sense, the environmental
impact of any human activity might be evaluated to determine the distribution of environmental
amenities and risks among people categorized according to any population characteristic,
including gender, age, race, place of residence, occupation, income class, or language. In the
political context, however, emphasis generally is more on the distribution of health risks resulting
from exposure to toxic substances in residential or occupational environments of different racial,
ethnic, or socioeconomic groups.
The 1994 Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority
Populations and Low-Income Populations, directs each federal agency to “make achieving 96
environmental justice part of its mission.” EPA is the federal agency with lead responsibility for
implementing the executive order. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), located in
OECA, is responsible for coordinating efforts to include environmental justice into policies and 97
programs across the agency’s headquarters and regional offices. EPA’s OEJ provides
information and technical assistance to other federal agencies for integrating environmental
justice into their missions, engages stakeholders to identify issues and opportunities, and 98
administers EPA environmental justice grants.
95 House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials: H.R. 1103,
the Environmental Justice Act of 2007, and H.R. 1055, the Toxic Right-To-Know Protection Act, Legislative
Hearing—Environmental Justice and the Toxics Release Inventory Reporting Program: Communities Have a Right to
Know, October 4, 2007. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Subcommittee on Superfund and
Environmental Health Hearing: Oversight of the EPA’s Environmental Justice Programs, July 25, 2007.
96 Executive Order 12898, 49 Federal Register 7629, February 16, 1994, http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/
97 EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for the agency’s administration of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, including processing and investigating administrative complaints under implementing regulations (40 C.F.R.
Part 7) prohibiting EPA-funded permitting agencies from “... permitting actions that are intentionally discriminatory or
have a discriminatory effect based on race, color, or national origin.” See http://www.epa.gov/civilrights/t6home.htm.
98 EPA reports that, since 1994, more than $31 million in funding has been provided to more than 1,100 community-
based organizations. For more information regarding EPA’s Environmental Justice Program activities, see
EPA’s OEJ is developing the Environmental Justice Strategic Enforcement Assessment Tool
(EJSEAT), which it expects to begin using in FY2008. OECA expects to use EJSEAT to
“consistently identify possible environmental justice areas of concern,” where potentially
disproportionately high and adverse environmental and public health burdens exist, and assist 99
EPA in making “fair” enforcement and compliance resource deployment decisions. OEJ
published a “Toolkit for Assessing Potential Allegations of Environmental Injustice,” primarily to 100
assist agency staff in assessing allegations of environmental injustice. Citizens can evaluate
overlap between environmental conditions and demographic characteristics by using EPA’s 101
Environmental Justice Geographic Assessment Tool, through the agency’s online database—
EnviroMapper (see the discussion regarding EPA’s various enforcement compliance databases in
A frequent criticism regarding implementation and enforcement of federal environmental
requirements has been an emphasis, historically, on a “command and control” approach. In
response to these criticisms, since the 1990s EPA and states have relied increasingly on
compliance assistance to help the regulated community understand its obligations to prevent
violations and reduce the need for enforcement actions, as well as to assist violators in achieving
compliance. Many states have advocated compliance assistance and developed assistance 102
programs designed to address specific environmental issues at the local level.
EPA’s Office of Compliance (OC) within OECA has introduced a number of compliance
assistance programs, many of them developed in conjunction with support from the regions, 103
states, and tribes. Each EPA region has a designated Compliance Assistance Coordinator who
serves as an “expert” within the region on compliance assistance priorities, strategies, and
performance measurement. The coordinators work with subject-matter experts in the regions and
at headquarters in the development of compliance assistance guides and workshops, and 104
contribute to other assistance activities such as conducting compliance assistance visits.
In addition to providing compliance assistance across the individual pollution control statutes,
sector-based assistance is also provided. Developed and introduced in partnership between EPA,
states, academia, environmental groups, industry, and other agencies, the National Compliance 105
Assistance Centers provide sector-specific assistance. There are currently 15 sector-specific
Web-based compliance assistance centers. As shown in Table 4 below, the sector-specific centers
include agriculture, auto repair, chemical manufacturing, federal facilities, and local governments.
99 EPA-OECA, “Environmental Justice Strategic Enforcement Assessment Tool (EJSEAT),” http://www.epa.gov/
100 EPA-OECA, Office of Environmental Justice, EPA 300-R-04-002, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/
101 EPA-OECA, Environmental Justice Geographic Assessment Tool, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/
102 ECOS, State Agency Contributions to Enforcement and Compliance, ECOS 01-004, April 2001.
103 For more information regarding EPA’s compliance assistance programs, see http://www.epa.gov/compliance/
104 EPA-OECA, http://www.epa.gov/Compliance/assistance/planning/index.html.
105 For more information regarding the National Compliance Assistance Centers, see http://www.epa.gov/compliance/
assistance/centers/index.html or http://www.assistancecenters.net/.
Through partnerships, EPA has developed the National Compliance Assistance Clearinghouse,106
providing Web-based access to compliance tools and contacts, in order to facilitate information-
sharing on compliance assistance. Trade associations, universities, and consultants are also an
increasing source of assistance information.
Table 4. Sector Web-Based Compliance Assistance Centers
Agriculture Local Government
Automotive Recycling Metal Finishing
Automotive Service and Repair Paints and Coatings
Chemical Manufacturing Printed Wiring Board Manufacturers
Federal Facilities Tribal Governments and Indian Country
Source: Table created by CRS with information from the National Compliance Center website, available at
The use of compliance incentive approaches has been evolving. Incentives generally are policies
and programs that may reduce or waive penalties and sanctions under specific conditions for
those who voluntarily take steps to evaluate, disclose, correct, and prevent noncompliance.
Examples include self-disclosure programs and related tools such as environmental audit
protocols, Environmental Management Systems, and other innovation projects and programs
designed to achieve environmental benefits.
One of the earliest formal EPA incentive approaches is the EPA Audit Policy—“Incentives for
Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction and Prevention of Violations”—in effect since 107
1995. Under the policy, certain violations are voluntarily reported after being discovered
through self-audit. In many cases EPA eliminates civil penalties, and may offer not to refer certain
violations for criminal prosecution. In early 2007, EPA solicited comments on the question of to
what extent, if any, the agency should consider providing incentives to encourage new owners of
recently acquired facilities to discover and disclose environmental violations, and to correct or 108
prevent their reoccurrence. More recently, to further promote compliance through the use of
various incentive approaches, EPA has encouraged incentive approaches as part of its core
program guidance included in the OECA FY2009 National Program Manager Guidance. The
guidance was distributed to Regional Administrators and State Environmental Commissioners in 109
106 EPA National Compliance Assistance Clearinghouse, available at http://220.127.116.11/clearinghouse/
107 For more information regarding EPA’s incentive programs and initiatives, see http://www.epa.gov/compliance/
108 72 Federal Register 27116, May 14, 2007.
109 EPA-OECA, Compliance and Enforcement Short Term Planning,
EPA’s reliance on incentive approaches has been met with some skepticism by those who favor
more traditional enforcement. Critics are concerned that incentive and voluntary approaches
subtract resources from an already limited pool of enforcement resources. EPA and other
supporters of these approaches contend that they result in cost savings by reducing burdens on
investigators, achieve desired environmental improvements, and allow for the leveraging of
additional resources through partnerships. Aspects of EPA’s incentive approaches have been the 110
subject of reviews by EPA-OIG and GAO.
The adequacy of resources needed by EPA, DOJ, and the states to effectively enforce the major
federal environmental pollution control laws is often highlighted during congressional debate of
fiscal year appropriations. Congress has specified funding levels for certain aspects of EPA
enforcement activities, or required the agency to undertake certain actions under annual
appropriations; an example is the previously mentioned provision included in the House-passed
FY2008 Interior and Environmental Agencies Appropriations bill (H.R. 2643) that would have
required EPA to hire criminal investigators to bring the total number of investigators up to the 111
statutory requirement of 200, pursuant to the Pollution Prosecution Act of 1990. (The provision 112
was not included in the FY2008 consolidated appropriations.)
The FY2008 enacted appropriation for EPA’s enforcement activities was $553.5 million.113 Table
5 illustrates the distribution of funding and full-time equivalents (FTEs) among various
enforcement activities across the agency’s appropriations accounts for the two most recently
completed fiscal years. (Similarly detailed information on the distribution of funding for other
fiscal years, including FY2008, is not readily available.)
110 EPA-OIG: Performance Track Could Improve Program Design and Management to Ensure Value, Report No.
2007-P-00013, March 29, 2007. GAO: Environmental Protection: Challenges Facing EPA’s Efforts to Reinvent
Environmental Regulation, RCED-97-155, July 2, 1997.
111 Title VI—Additional General Provisions, Sec. 605 of H.R. 2643 as placed on the Calendar of the Senate (June 28,
112 Joint Explanatory Statement Accompanying Division F of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2008 (P.L.
110-161, H.R. 2764), as presented in the Congressional Record, December 17, 2007 (pg. H16142).
113 EPA’s appropriations are within the jurisdiction of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations
Table 5. EPA-OECA’s FY2007-FY2008 Enacted Appropriation and FTEs by EPA
Appropriations Account and Program Activity
(dollars in thousands)
Enacted Enacted EPA Appropriation Account / Program Activity
Dollars FTEs Dollars FTEs
Total $548,934.0 3,450.0 $553,543.0 3,415.2
Environmental Programs Management (EPM) $322,933.0 2,241.2 $326,943.0 2,242.7
Brownfields $768.0 5.0 $778.0 4.6
Civil Enforcement $125,438.0 942.8 $129,886.0 964.9
Compliance Assistance and Centers $29,070.0 204.8 $27,725.0 196.8
Compliance Incentives $9,695.0 75.7 $10,618.0 73.7
Compliance Monitoring $92,769.0 630.1 $88,726.0 619.6
Congressionally Mandated Projects $0.0 0.0 $0.0 0.0
Criminal Enforcement $38,939.0 221.6 $40,742.0 220.1
Enforcement Training $2,562.0 12.8 $3,096.0 15.6
Environmental Justice $4,675.0 16.9 $6,399.0 16.9
Homeland Security $4,006.0 20.8 $3,904.0 20.8
International Capacity Building $0.0 0.0
NEPA Implementation $13,967.0 104.0 $14,142.0 104.0
Congressional, Intergov., Ext. Rel. $1,044.0 6.7 $927.0 5.7
IT / Data Management $0.0 0.0
Science and Technology (S&T) $13,568.0 83.0 $14,882.0 90.5
Forensics Support $13,568.0 83.0 $14,882.0 90.5
State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) $25,913.0 — $24,647.0 —
Categorical Grant: Pesticides Enforcement $18,622.0 — $18,419.0 —
Categorical Grant: Toxics Substances $5,074.0 — $5,019.0 —
Categorical Grant: Sector Program $2,217.0 — $1,209.0 —
Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST) $724.0 5.5 $709.0 4.8
Compliance Assistance and Centers $724.0 5.5 $709.0 4.8
Oil Spills Response $2,007.0 15.8 $2,358.0 17.3
Civil Enforcement $1,730.0 14.0 $2,072.0 15.5
Compliance Assistance and Centers $277.0 1.8 $286.0 1.8
Hazardous Substances Superfund $183,789.0 1,104.5 $184,004.0 1,059.9
Civil Enforcement $880.0 1.7 $870.0 1.7
Compliance Assistance and Centers $22.0 0.0 $22.0 0.0
Compliance Incentives $141.0 0.9 $159.0 0.9
Compliance Monitoring $1,182.0 1.9 $1,165.0 1.9
Criminal Enforcement $9,047.0 49.2 $9,053.0 48.8
Enforcement Training $612.0 4.1 $827.0 5.3
Environmental Justice $757.0 0.0 $745.0 0.0
Forensics Support $3,802.0 24.8 $3,750.0 15.3
Homeland Security $1,813.0 9.2 $1,828.0 9.2
Superfund: Enforcement $155,021.0 930.3 $155,705.0 901.4
Congressional, Intergov., Ext. Rel. $151.0 1.1 $154.0 1.1
Superfund: Federal Facilities Enforce. $10,361.0 81.3 $9,726.0 74.3
Source: Compiled by the Congressional Research Service with data received from the Environmental
Protection Agency’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations (OCIR) in written
communications: June 4, 2007 and February 12, 2008.
DOJ’s resource (funding/staff) requirements and outlays associated with its litigation activities
under the major federal pollution control statutes are, in the main, a subset of the funding
(proposed and previously appropriated) for ENRD in its annual budget justifications. As
discussed previously, ENRD is responsible for the majority of DOJ’s support of the federal
pollution control laws, as well as many other responsibilities, including representing the United
States in matters regarding natural resources and public lands, acquisition of real property by
eminent domain for the federal government, and cases under wildlife protection laws.
The President’s FY2009 budget request for DOJ included $103.1 million and 499 FTEs for
ENRD. An additional $23.9 million for 184 FTEs included in the President’s request for EPA was
to be transferred to ENRD through a reimbursable agreement for Superfund work. FY2008
enacted levels for ENRD were $99.5 million and 495 FTEs, plus $26.2 million for 184 FTEs
transferred from EPA. Of the FY2008 enacted amount including the transfers from EPA, roughly
$67.7 million and 366 FTEs were for environmental litigation activities; $10.9 million and 59
FTEs were for criminal litigation conducted by ECS; and $56.8 million and 307 FTEs were for
civil environmental defensive and enforcement litigation conducted by the Environmental 114
Defense and the Environmental Enforcement Sections.
Detailed reporting of federal funding to states and states’ funding contributions for pollution
control enforcement/compliance activities is not readily available. ECOS has tracked a broader
category of state funding and expenditures that it defines as annual “environmental and natural
resource spending,” which, in more recent years, has been primarily based on survey data
reported by states. The data, which include state and federal funding, are limited for purposes of
enforcement of federal pollution control laws in that they combine environmental and natural
resource spending. Also, states vary in how they track and report this type of spending. The data
do provide a source of state funding from a national perspective. For example for FY2003, the
most recent fiscal year reported, ECOS reported that states budgeted a combined total of $15.0
billion for environment and natural resources spending; this represents 1.4 percent of their
114 DOJ, Justice Management Division, Budget Staff, Department of Justice FY2009 Budget Congressional Submission
http://www.usdoj.gov/jmd/2009justification/, and information provided by ENRD in written communication to CRS.
See also, Budget Trend Data 1975 Through the President’s 2003 Request to the Congress, pp. 55-61, Spring 2002,
combined total budgets. ECOS found that $5.0 billion, or one-third of the amount budgeted, was 115
from federal funding to states for these purposes.
Federal appropriations, in particular allocations to states, for adequate staffing and effective
enforcement of federal environmental statutes to protect human health and the environment, will
likely continue to be an issue of concern.
Fully evaluating and measuring the overall effectiveness of current (and past)
enforcement/compliance activities can be quite complicated. Discussion throughout this report
highlights the difficulties inherent in characterizing the many facets of environmental
enforcement at a macro level, and identifies many of the factors that may contribute to its
perceived successes and shortcomings. However, several indicators do provide insight into a
better understanding of the complexities associated with elements of enforcement, such as the
vastness and diversity of the regulated community, the multiplicity of the activities and priorities
across many regulating entities, and variability across statutes.
Since the establishment of EPA in 1970, Congress has been interested in a number of crosscutting
issues associated with the enforcement of pollution control statutes and regulations, as reflected in
provisions of enacted and amended environmental legislation over time. Congressional interest
remains heightened, particularly with regard to the substance of intergovernmental relations,
EPA-state relations, and fiscal requirements. Congress’s involvement with these issues could take
several directions. One likely result could be oversight hearings. Alternatively, relevant
appropriations legislation may contain provisions or language regarding funding for specific
Congressional interest might focus on statutory approaches to establish changes in the EPA-states’
partnership, such as legislation similar to past proposals concerning refinement of the National
Environmental Performance Partnership System (performance partnerships, or NEPPS) and the
associated grants award process. Congress may also consider other statute-specific legislation to
address other longstanding concerns that affect enforcement/compliance activities.
The regulated community, public interest groups, federal and state officials, and Congress are
often divided on whether to pursue legislation that would further expand or constrain
enforcement/compliance. They are similarly divided with respect to proposals that would expand
states’ authority for implementing and enforcing certain aspects of the major federal pollution
Views and congressional involvement with respect to these issues are likely to evolve in the years
115 All dollar amounts are adjusted to a 2003 basis for inflation. ECOS Budget Survey: Budgets are bruised, but Still
Strong, R. Steven Brown and Michael J. Kiefer, Summer 2003 ECOStates (http://www.ecos.org/section/states/
Compliance monitoring data are used to manage the compliance and enforcement program, and to
inform the public of enforcement actions taken and penalties imposed. EPA and the states collect
and maintain compliance/enforcement data in many forms. ECOS reports that states collect about
permits and monitoring programs. Information is often entered into multiple databases or
transferred from state databases. Historically, the databases were often incompatible, making
cross media/statute queries difficult. In recent years, EPA has been working to integrate several of
the individual databases to allow more cross referencing of compliance data by regulators and to 117
provide querying capabilities to the public.
EPA compiles data from the various databases and provides various statistics in the form of 118
annual accomplishment and multi-year trends reports. Reporting has traditionally focused on
statute-by-statute results, including actions initiated and concluded, and penalties and other
sanctions assessed. How effectively the reported information can be used as an indicator of
environmental progress and the impacts of environmental enforcement has been an issue of some 119
debate, and questioned in reviews conducted by EPA-OIG and GAO. Critics contend, and EPA
has long recognized, that while somewhat indicative of the failure to comply with environmental
requirements, counting enforcement actions alone (“bean counting”) does not provide a complete
measure of the effectiveness of the national environmental enforcement/compliance program.
EPA has initiated efforts to expand its reporting by including estimates of environmental benefits
(pollution reduction and impacts avoided). Additionally, there have been efforts to account for
states’ contributions; the FY2006 OECA Accomplishment Report for the first time contained a
brief summary of states’ enforcement accomplishments as reported by ECOS.
A number of EPA’s single- and multi-media national databases include enforcement and
compliance data elements. While these databases are generally available to EPA staff, and in
some cases state and local governments, most are not readily available to the public. The
116 EPA, FY2006 OECA Accomplishment Report, EPA-300-R-07-001, Spring 2007, http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/
117 For a more complete list and descriptions of EPA’s enforcement/compliance databases, see http://www.epa.gov/
118 See “EPA Results and Reports” at http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/nets/index.cfml.
119 EPA-OIG: Overcoming Obstacles to Measuring Compliance: Practices in Selected Federal Agencies, Report No.
2007-P-00027, June 20, 2007; EPA Performance Measures Do Not Effectively Track Compliance Outcomes, Report
No. 2006-P-00006; Congressional Request on Updating Fiscal 2003 EPA Enforcement Resources and
Accomplishments, Report 2004-S-00002 http://www.epa.gov/oig/. GAO: Environmental Enforcement: EPA Needs to
Improve the Accuracy and Transparency of Measures Used to Report on Program Effectiveness, GAO-08-1111R,
September 18, 2008 http://gao.gov.
Enforcement and Compliance History Online, or ECHO, developed and maintained by OECA is
the most prominent publicly accessible database. Introduced in 2003, ECHO queries provide a
snapshot of the most recent three years of a facility’s environmental compliance record, but are
limited primarily to certain requirements under the CAA, CWA, and RCRA. EPA continues to
expand the integration and capabilities of this and other databases. Finally, several state
environmental agencies maintain additional information about compliance and enforcement 120
(beyond what is reported to EPA systems).
The following brief summaries of several of EPA’s integrated national databases are a
consolidation of descriptions provided on the agency’s website:
ECHO is an interactive website that allows users to query permit, inspection, violation,
enforcement action, informal enforcement action, and penalty information for individual or
multiple facilities. Initial queries return a list of relevant facilities, each linked to a “Detailed
Facility Report,” indicating:
• whether a facility has been inspected/evaluated,
• occurrence and nature of violations (noncompliance),
• nature of enforcement actions (including penalties) that have been taken,
• contextual information about the demographics surrounding the facility.
Envirofacts provides public access to information about environmental activities, such as
releases, permit compliance, hazardous waste handling processes, and the status of Superfund
sites, that may affect air, water, and land anywhere in the United States. Data are retrieved from
various EPA source databases. Users can develop on-line queries, create reports and map results.
FRS (a companion to the integrated facility searches in Envirofacts) can be used to create facility
identification records, including geographical location, and to locate sites or places subject to
environmental regulations or oversight (e.g., monitoring sites). Records are based on information
from EPA program national systems, state master facility records, and data collected from EPA’s
Central Data Exchange. See http://www.epa.gov/frs/.
ICIS integrates data that are currently located in several separate data systems. ICIS contains
information on federal administrative and federal judicial cases under the following
120 Several states have provided direct links to related websites, which EPA posts on the ECHO website at
environmental statutes: the CAA, CWA, RCRA, EPCRA, TSCA, FIFRA, CERCLA (Superfund),
SDWA, and MPRSA. ICIS also contains information on compliance assistance activities
conducted in EPA regions and headquarters. The Web-based system enables states and EPA to
access integrated enforcement and compliance data. The public can only access some of the
federal enforcement and compliance information in ICIS by using the EPA Enforcement Cases
Search and EPA Enforcement SEP Search through ECHO. See http://www.epa.gov/compliance/
IDEA maintains copies of EPA’s air, water, hazardous waste and enforcement source data systems
that are updated monthly. An internal EPA database, IDEA uses “logical” data integration to
provide a historical profile of inspections, enforcement actions, penalties assessed and toxic
chemicals released, for EPA-regulated facilities. See http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/
systems/multimedia/i dea/index.html .
OTIS is a collection of search engines which enables EPA, state/local/tribal governments and
certain other federal agencies to access a broad range of data relating to enforcement and
compliance. No public access is available. This Web application sends queries to the IDEA
system (discussed above). IDEA copies many EPA and non-EPA databases, and organizes the
information to facilitate cross-database analysis. See http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/
A number of other databases, mostly for single media, also include compliance/enforcement data.
Many of these databases are the basis for certain data elements in the various integrated
databases, and typically are not directly available to the public. Other databases include
• the Air Facility System (AFS);
• Permit Compliance System (PCS);
• Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Information System (RCRAInfo);
• National Compliance Data Base System and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and
Rodenticide Act/Toxic Substances Control Act Tracking System (NCDB/FTTS);
• Safe Drinking Water Information System/Federal (SDWIS/FED).
For a more complete list and descriptions of EPA’s enforcement/compliance databases, see EPA’s
“Compliance and Enforcement Data Systems” Web page at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/
The following figures and tables provide examples of the type of enforcement data collected,
compiled and reported over time. They are intended to show proportional relationships of the
various types of enforcement actions (e.g., administrative vs. judicial) in a given year and by
statute, not annual or long-term enforcement trends. To compare the reported activities from year
to year requires more detailed information regarding the specific circumstances in those years.
There can be significant variability from year to year in how data were reported and which
entities reported. EPA has refined terms and definitions in the data elements from year to year.
Other factors that result in variability include the introduction of new regulatory requirements in a
given year, and fruition of statutory deadlines.
The figures presented below reflect longer-term data (15 to 20 years), whereas the tables
generally provide data for the most recent five or six years, depending on the availability of data
for the most recent fiscal year. FY2008 results data are available by action (e.g., administrative,
civil judicial, criminal judicial), but not for actions by statute (e.g., Clean Water Act, Clean Air
Figure A-1. EPA Civil Judicial Referrals, Administrative Order
Complaints, and Criminal Referrals, FY1992-FY2008
0 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008
Civil Judicial ReferralsEPA Admin. Order Complaints EPA Criminal Referrals
Source: Compiled by CRS using data from EPA’s Enforcement Annual Compliance Results FY2008, National
Enforcement Trends (FY2007)—EPA Long Term Trends; and National Enforcement Trends (FY2004)—EPA
Long term Trends: Criminal Referrals and Penalties, http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/nets/
index.cfm. EPA terminated the count of criminal referrals as an internal Criminal Enforcement program measure
in FY2005 and discontinued reporting this data in its trends reports
Table A-1. EPA Civil Administrative, Civil Judicial, and
Criminal Enforcement Actions, FY2003-FY2008
Enforcement Action FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006 FY2007 FY2008
Administrative Compliance Orders 1,582 1,807 1,916 1,438 1,247 1,390
Administrative Penalty Order Complaints 1,888 2,122 2,229 4,647 2,237 2,056
Final Administrative Penalty Orders 1,707 2,248 2,273 4,624 2,256 2,084
Civil Judicial Referral 268 268 259 286 278 280
Civil Judicial Cases Concluded 195 176 157 173 180 192
Criminal Judicial Referral 228 168 NR NR NR NR
Criminal Judicial Cases Initiated 508 422 372 305 340 319
Source: Compiled by CRS using data from EPA’s Enforcement Annual Compliance Results FY2008, National
Enforcement Trends (FY2007)—Enforcement Actions, and National Enforcement Trends (FY2004)—
Enforcement Actions: Criminal Enforcement Program Activities, http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/resources/
Notes: NR = not reported. EPA terminated the count of criminal referrals as an internal Criminal Enforcement
program measure in FY2005 and discontinued reporting this data in its trends reports.
Figure A-2. Number of EPA Federal Inspections and Evaluations
by Statute, FY1994-FY2007
10 000m ion
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
CA A CW A EP CRA FIFR A RCRA SD W A TS C A
Source: Compiled by CRS using data from EPA’s National Enforcement Trends (FY2007)—EPA Long Term Trends:
FY1994-FY2007 Federal Inspections and Evaluations, http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/nets/
Table A-2. Number of EPA Enforcement Inspections and Evaluations by Statute,
Statute FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006 FY2007
CAA 809 1,019 2,524 3,362 3,918 3,843
CWA 3,553 3,769 3,726 3,650 4,453 3,480
EPCRA 733 987 970 905 928 884
FIFRA 810 338 472 215 344 360
MPRSA NR 3 4 0 0 0
RCRA 2,480 2,970 3,042 2,768 3,812 3,874
SDWA 6,545 7,418 8,501 8,771 7,768 7,618
TSCA 2,738 2,376 1,792 1,611 2,008 1,662
Total 17,668 18,880 21,031 21,282 23,231 21,721
Source: Compiled by CRS using data from EPA’s National Enforcement Trends (FY2007)—EPA Inspections and
Investigations, http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/nets/index.cfm. FY2008 were not available .
CAA: Clean Air Act
CWA: Clean Water Act
EPCRA: Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
FIFRA: Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
MPRSA: Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act
RCRA: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
SDWA: Safe Drinking Water Act
TSCA: Toxic Substances Control Act
Figure A-3. Environmental Enforcement Penalties Assessed by EPA: Administrative,
Civil Judicial, and Criminal, FY1986-FY2008
Adjusted for Inflation (2007 dollars)$350
1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007
Civil Administrative PenaltiesCivil Judicial PenaltiesCriminal Penalties
Source: Compiled by CRS using data from EPA’s Enforcement Annual Compliance Results FY2008, National
Enforcement Trends (FY2007)—EPA Long Term Trends: FY1974-FY2007 Enforcement Penalties, http://cfpub.epa.gov/
compliance/resources/reports/nets/index.cfm. Amounts converted to 2007 dollars using the GDP Chained Price
Index from the Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government for FY2009, Historical Tables,
Table A-3. Environmental Enforcement Penalties Assessed
by EPA: Administrative, Civil Judicial, and Criminal,
(dollars in thousands—not adjusted for inflation)
Fiscal Year Administrative Civil Judicial Criminala Total
FY2003 $24,376 $72,260 $71,000 $167,636
FY2004 $27,637 $121,213 $47,000 $195,850
FY2005 $26,731 $127,206 $100,000 $253,937
FY2006 $42,007 $81,808 $43,000 $166,815
FY2007 $30,700 $39,800 $63,000 $133,500
FY2008 $38,200 $88,400 $63,500 $190,10
Source: Compiled by CRS using data from EPA’s Enforcement Annual Compliance Results FY2008,National
Enforcement Trends (FY2007)—Penalties, Injunctive Relief and SEPs, http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/resources/
a. Criminal penalties represent fines and restitution.
Figure A-4. EPA Supplemental Environmental Projects: Number of Projects and
Dollar Value, FY1999-FY2008
200$200, in for
Ps Ps ted
oe of St adatio
50 $50 o
19 99 2000 2001 20 02 2003 2004 200 5 2006 2007 200 8
Number of SEPsTotal Dollar Value
Source: Compiled by CRS using data from EPA’s Enforcement Annual Compliance Results FY2008, National
Enforcement Trends (FY2007)—Penalties, Injunctive Relief and SEPs: FY1999-FY2007 Supplemental
Environmental Projects, http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/nets/index.cfm.
Table A-4. Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)
Dollar Values as Reported by EPA: FY2002-FY2007
(dollars in thousands—not adjusted for inflation)
Statute FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006 FY2007
CAA $33,109.9 $36,322.9 $21,816.0 $31,637.7 $41,712.9 $16,458.4
CERCLA $2,960.2 $207.0 $564.8 $363.1 $2,732.8 $367.0
CWA $13,078.7 $7,979.9 $16,067.0 $18,427.9 $21,712.8 $8,431.4
EPCRA $1,223.3 $4,638.9 $1,094.4 $1,426.0 $1,208.2 $1,387.4
FIFRA $12.0 $0.0 $247.4 $62.1 $31.1 $369.0
MPRSA NR $0.0 $0.0 $104.0 $0.0 $146.5
RCRA $6,261.5 $15,218.1 $2,757.9 $3,249.5 $2,923.3 $1,720.8
SDWA $428.2 $0.0 $322.9 $734.6 $133.1 $59.2
TSCA $832.7 $1,054.7 $5,031.5 $1,031.1 $7,313.1 $1,405.0
Total $57,906.3 $65,421.6 $47,901.9 $57,036.1 $77,767.3 $30,344.8
Source: Compiled by CRS using data from EPA’s National Enforcement Trends (FY2007)—Penalties, Injunctive
Relief and SEPs: FY1999-FY2007 Supplemental Environmental Projects, http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/
resources/reports/nets/index.cfm. FY2008 data by statute was not available.
CAA: Clean Air Act
CERCLA: Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund)
CWA: Clean Water Act
EPCRA: Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
FIFRA: Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
MPRSA: Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act
RCRA: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
SDWA: Safe Drinking Water Act
TSCA: Toxic Substances Control Act
Specialist in Environmental Policy