EPA Sets Record For Enforcement Action in 2000

EPA took a record total of 6,027\r\ncivil judicial, criminal and administrative enforcement actions in 2000, according to agency data.

EPA recently released data on its major enforcement and compliance actions for FY 2000.

According to the data, EPA took a record cumulative total of 6,027 civil judicial, criminal and administrative enforcement actions, requiring polluters to pay $2.6 billion in injunctive relief for environmental cleanup, Superfund site remediation, pollution control cleanup, improved monitoring and additional environmental improvements.

Polluters were also required to pay $224.6 million in civil and criminal penalties.

The combined level of civil and criminal penalties assessed in 2000 was the third largest total in EPA history.

EPA''s enforcement actions were taken in response to significant emissions or discharges of toxic or hazardous pollutants.

The cases resolved by criminal enforcement included those involving the illegal management or release of serious pollutants such as lead, asbestos and ozone-layer depleting CFCs.

During 2000, the agency referred 368 civil judicial cases to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Several cases under the Clean Air Act were part of EPA''s national focus on electric power utilities that the government alleged had illegally expanded the capacity of their facilities, causing millions of excess tons of nitrogen oxides to be emitted into the air.

The first case, lodged in February 2000, committed Tampa Electric Co. to spend $1 billion to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide by a combined 190,000 tons annually.

Other cases under the Clean Water Act involved cleanup of 3 million gallons of oil spilled from pipelines in six states.

The criminal enforcement program, used for those who violate the law knowingly or willfully, initiated 477 cases, referred 236 cases to DOJ and charged 360 defendants.

The federal courts imposed 146 years of criminal sentences in 2000.

The courts also assessed $122 million in criminal fines, the second highest in the history of the program.

Complementing its civil and criminal enforcement, EPA said it continued to successfully use its several incentive programs to encourage industries to self-audit their facilities and correct violations.

Last year, 430 companies disclosed potential violations at nearly 2,200 facilities under EPA''s Audit Policy.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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