|(29 Oct 2019)
Environmental prosecutions under Trump have averaged 306 per year. According to the latest case-by-case information through September 2019 analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, this number was fewer than during any year of the Obama, Bush, or Clinton Administrations going back to the mid 1990's.
In general environmental prosecutions have been trending downward for several decades. Last year's numbers were 64.5 percent fewer than twenty years ago when there were 850 federal environmental prosecutions.
The Interior Department, through its Fish and Wildlife Service and its Bureau of Land Management, has been the lead investigative agency for the largest number of federal environmental prosecutions over the years. During FY 2019 its investigative efforts resulted in just over half of federal environmental prosecutions. Criminal offenses involved such matters as illegally taking fish and wildlife, violation of migratory birds and endangered species provisions, and prohibited hunting or other failures to follow regulations on the use of public lands. Those convicted usually received a small fine.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been the second most active in investigating environmental offenses. Last year its referrals resulted in roughly one out of every five prosecutions. EPA focused on violations of statutes protecting our air and water, restricting hazardous waste disposal, and controlling toxic substances. Fraud statutes were sometimes used. Businesses as well as individuals were subject to these prosecutions. Penalties invoked in additional to fines were probation time, and on occasion prison terms.
Other agency investigations resulting in environmental prosecutions have included the Coast Guard for prevention of pollution from ships and the Forest Service for violating federal land use regulations. At one time the Federal Bureau of Investigation played an active role, but it has largely withdrawn from this arena as it refocused its efforts after 9/11.
The three districts in Louisiana often rank in the top 5 for both their number and rate of prosecutions for illegally taking fish and wildlife investigated by the Interior Department, while only the Middle District of Louisiana (Baton Rouge) rates within the top five districts for criminal prosecutions investigated by the EPA.
Alaska and Wyoming both have particularly high rates of prosecutions but this primarily reflects fish and wildlife violations. Despite concentrations of extractive industries in both states, they don't rate as highly for prosecutions of environmental crimes investigated by the EPA. Although in FY 2019, Alaska had five prosecutions resulting from investigations of ocean dumping and air pollution by the EPA.
To read the full report, including details on environmental prosecutions in each of the 90 federal judicial districts, go to:
In addition to these most recent figures, TRAC continues to offer free monthly reports on selected government agencies such as the FBI, ATF, DHS and the IRS. TRAC's reports also monitor program categories such as immigration, drugs, weapons, and white collar crime. Even more detailed criminal enforcement information for the period from FY 1986 through September 2019 is available to TRACFed subscribers via Express and Going Deeper tools. Go to http://tracfed.syr.edu for more information. Customized reports for a specific agency, district, program, lead charge or judge are available via the TRAC Data Interpreter, either as part of a TRACFed subscription or on a per-report basis. Go to
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