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September 8, 2017

Environmental Prosecutions Hit Record Low; Multiple Federal Agencies Bow to Polluters
By Jillian S. Ambroz

Trump’s assaults on the environmental protections put in place by previous presidents have come at breakneck speed. At the same time, he’s dangerously applied the brakes to the enforcement of remaining regulations. So much so that if we stay at this pace, we will end the year with the lowest number of environmental criminal prosecutions recorded in more than two decades, since the Justice Department started tracking these cases. For the first six months of 2017, the federal government reported 152 new environmental criminal prosecutions across all agencies which handle these crimes, according to the Justice Department. At this rate, that would put us at 304 for the fiscal year—down 22.6% from 2016—according to a case-by-case analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse or TRAC. Compared to five years ago, that’s a staggering 50% drop in criminal prosecutions. And compared to 10 years ago, when prosecutions peaked at 927 under President George W. Bush, that would represent a 67% drop. Among the different agencies which prosecute environmental crimes, the Department of the Interior led the pack for the first half of this year with roughly half of the cases, according to TRAC. It was followed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which handled about 21% of the cases. The Federal Bureau of Investigation prosecuted roughly 10%, the Department of Agriculture, nearly 8% and the Commerce Department just over 3% of cases. Other agencies involved included the Department of Homeland Security and some components of the Justice Department.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2017
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