Environmental Prosecutions from Investigations by EPA and Interior Department Continue to Decline
(24 Aug 2021) The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first ten months of FY 2021 the government reported 182 new environment prosecutions. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be down 7.6 percent over the past fiscal year and down 44.5 percent from just five years ago. Declines are even larger when compared with federal environmental prosecutions from ten and twenty years ago.

The two lead investigatory agencies responsible for referring most of these cases are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Interior. Prosecutions referred by both agencies have been on a long-term decline. EPA investigatory efforts typically focus on water and air pollution as well as hazardous waste management. The Department of Interior, including its Fish and Wildlife Service, play a critical role in federal efforts to protect our fish and wildlife, including endangered species.

Criminal prosecutions resulting from investigations by Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service for illegally taking fish and wildlife is the single most frequently prosecuted federal environmental offense [16 USC 3372]. This is followed by killing or possessing migratory birds [18 USC 703].

The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with environment-related offenses are based on an analysis of case-by-case information obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University after lengthy successful litigation against the U.S. Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act.

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