The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday announced record enforcement actions and penalties for Fiscal Year 1999.
These actions included $3.6 billion for environmental cleanup, pollution control equipment and improved monitoring, an 80 percent increase over 1998.
This past year also brought $166.7 million in civil penalties, 60 percent higher than 1998 and 3,935 civil judicial and administrative actions, the highest in the last three years.
Criminal defendants were sentenced to a record 208 years of prison time for committing environmental crimes.
"This year's enforcement statistics again send a strong signal that we will unfailingly take action against those who illegally pollute the environment of our country," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner.
During FY 1999, EPA settled the largest Clean Air case in history against seven diesel engine manufacturers whose products were allegedly caused millions of tons of excess emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOX), a contributor to smog.
Under the settlement, the companies will spend more than $800 million on producing cleaner engines and pay an $83 million penalty.
Future NOX emissions will be reduced by more than 75 million tons over the next quarter century.
The agency referred 403 cases to the U.S. Department of Justice -- down slightly from the 411 referrals from the previous year -- and issued a record 1,654 administrative complaints.
The 208 years of criminal sentences imposed by the courts in FY 1999 was approximately 12 years higher than the previous record for incarceration.
EPA last year referred 241 criminal cases for prosecution and assessed $61.6 million in criminal fines, compared to the $92.3 million in 1998.
In addition to its formal enforcement action, EPA continued to expand its use of incentives to achieve industry compliance with environmental laws while promoting the public's right to know.
The agency reported that in FY 1999, approximately 260 companies disclosed potential violations over 989 facilities under EPA's self-disclosure policy.
A total of 106 companies corrected violations at 624 facilities this past year, a significant increase over the 63 companies that corrected violation at 390 facilities in FY 1998.
"These figures show that our enforcement strategy has been enormously successful in targeting the most serious violators for aggressive action to achieve environmental results, while at the same time, providing real incentives for those who voluntarily disclose violations," said Steve Herman, EPA's assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
EPA's enforcement actions reduced emissions or discharges of pollutants, many of them toxic or hazardous.
Among the major reductions were: nitrogen oxides, asbestos, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide.