The Environmental Protection Agency initiated 3,027 civil enforcement cases
in fiscal year 2012, continuing a downward trend that reflects the agency's
prioritization of large cases, the agency said Dec. 17 while releasing its annual
report on enforcement and compliance.
Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance
assurance, told BNA Dec. 17 the agency is initiating fewer smaller cases and
instead is prioritizing more complex cases “that are going to make the biggest
By comparison, the agency initiated 3,283 cases in fiscal 2011. The number of
new cases in fiscal year 2010 was 3,436 and the number of cases in fiscal 2009
Because of the priority on large cases, Giles said, the agency has secured
more pollution reductions and larger civil penalties, all while initiating fewer
The agency secured a record $208 million in civil penalties in fiscal 2012.
The results were buoyed by a $57.3 million penalty against Volvo Truck Corp. for
violating a 1998 consent decree.
By comparison, the agency assessed $152 million in fiscal 2011 and $106
million in fiscal 2010.
Giles said the penalties are “important in sending a strong deterrence
message to prevent violations.”
Enforcement actions also are expected to reduce air, water, and chemical
pollution by 2.2 billion pounds in fiscal 2012, up from 1.8 billion pounds in
fiscal 2011 and 1.5 billion pounds in fiscal 2010.
A September agreement with an industrial coke operation, Walter Coke Inc.,
under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, was responsible for a
reduction of 1.4 billion pounds of pollution.
Industry paid $9 billion for pollution controls in fiscal 2012, down from a
record $19 billion the previous year, when EPA entered into a large settlement
requiring the Tennessee Valley Authority to retire at least 18 of its 59
coal-fired power plants to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (237
DER A-26, 12/9/11).
Giles said a handful of large cases affect the traditional measures of
enforcement outcomes, including dollars spent on pollution controls, and the
results vary significantly year to year.
The agency has prioritized some areas that are not reflected in the
enforcement results, Giles said.
For example, she said, the agency's work on protecting drinking water is not
reflected because the drinking water supply does not have significant pounds of
pollution to be reduced.
During the past three years, Giles said, the agency has seen a 60 percent
decrease in the number of systems with serious violations, which she called a
By Jessica Coomes
The EPA fiscal year 2012 enforcement and compliance results are available at