Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) joined fellow Democratic leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY), in sending a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Dec. 6, requesting documents and information about the agency’s lack of enforcement for programs aimed at addressing climate change and protecting public health and the environment.
EPA documents and press reports over the past year indicate several disturbing trends, including a decline in the number of enforcement cases initiated; a reduction in enforcement staff; an overreliance on state enforcement programs; and an increased political review of potential or pending enforcement actions.
“We are writing to request information on a series of actions by the Trump Administration regarding the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA),” the lawmakers wrote. “We are deeply concerned that these actions undermine key enforcement programs and severely limit EPA’s ability to address climate change and protect public health and the environment.”
“We are deeply concerned that these actions undermine key enforcement programs and severely limit EPA’s ability to address climate change and protect public health and the environment.”
According to multiple reports, the Trump EPA has initiated far fewer civil and criminal enforcement cases against polluters for violating environmental laws, including a 20 percent reduction in civil cases initiated against polluters and a 30 percent cut in criminal enforcement cases. The Committee Democrats also pointed to reports that over 1,600 workers left EPA during the first 18 months of the Administration, bringing the agency’s staffing levels to an historic low.
“We are concerned that historically low staffing levels, combined with a series of recent actions taken by EPA management, undermine the agency’s enforcement capability,” the three Democratic Committee leaders continued in their letter to Wheeler.
EPA also recently announced a series of policies that require political appointees to review enforcement activities, a move that the Committee Democratic leaders believe could undermine enforcement of important public health and environmental protections. The Trump EPA has also implemented new policies that the Committee leaders are concerned could undercut its ability to ensure states are, in fact, following a consistent minimum level of protection.
The December 6th letter follows a letter sent earlier this month by the three Democratic Committee leaders to EPA requesting documents and information about the agency’s decision to roll back policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change.
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