Putting TRAC to Work
  Legal and Scholarly
Bloomber Law
February 22, 2022

Environmental Cops Eye Return to Obama-Level Criminal Case Rates
By Stephen Lee

The Justice Department’s push to prioritize criminal prosecutions for environmental crimes seeks to return the agency to pre-Trump administration enforcement levels, but not to dramatically exceed them. That clarification from Justice Department officials sheds light on recent public remarks by Todd Kim, assistant attorney general for Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), who said his group “will prioritize prosecuting individuals who commit and profit from corporate malfeasance.” Justice wants to reverse a sharp decline in criminal prosecutions during the Trump administration, a senior ENRD official who specializes in environmental crimes, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg Law. The number of environmental criminal prosecutions never topped 100 per fiscal year under President Donald Trump, after averaging well over 100 during the Obama administration, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The department’s position suggests that, in at least some cases, “environmental misdemeanor cases that were either not pursued at all, or were instead pursued through civil enforcement, will now be investigated as crimes, particularly if they have a nexus with environmental justice communities,” said Matt Leopold, a former EPA general counsel under Trump.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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