EPA Criminal Prosecutions Down by Half in Last Five Years

The Justice Department is poised to have the lowest number of criminal prosecutions from investigations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for over two decades.


That’s according to a report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first eleven months of FY 2016 the government reported 81 new prosecutions resulting from investigations lead by EPA.

If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 88 for this fiscal year.

Compared to five years ago when there were 182 individuals and businesses prosecuted, the estimate of FY 2016 prosecutions of this type is less than half the level earlier in President Obama’s administration.

Criminal prosecutions resulting from EPA referrals to federal prosecutors peaked during FY 1998 when President Clinton was in office when they reached 198, and were nearly as high at 196 during the first year of President Bush’s administration.

Not all EPA criminal referrals to federal prosecutors result in an actual prosecution.

However, the decline in prosecutions has been driven largely by the decline in EPA criminal referrals.

In fact, during the Obama administration federal prosecutors filed criminal charges in 43.1 percent of EPA referrals, compared with 40.2 percent during the prior Bush administration.

While most EPA referrals are of individuals accused of committing environmental crimes, about one in four (23.9%) of its referrals during the Obama years have been businesses.

Businesses also made up 23.0 percent of those prosecuted during the same period.

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