EPA Says Enforcement Yielded $19 Billion In Pollution Control Spending in Fiscal 2011

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By Jessica Coomes

Polluters paid a record $19 billion for pollution controls in fiscal year 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Dec. 8 in its annual report on enforcement and compliance.

EPA also secured $168 million in civil penalties during the fiscal year, according to the agency, and enforcement actions were expected to reduce air, water, and chemical pollution by 1.8 billion pounds.

The fiscal 2011 results are higher than in 2010, when polluters paid $12 billion for controls and $110 million in fines, reducing pollution by 1.4 billion pounds.

Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, told BNA Dec. 8 that the fiscal 2011 numbers reflect the agency's focus on cases that have the most potential for pollution reductions, “where can make the most difference to the most people.”

TVA Settlement Hailed.

For example, 708 million pounds of the 1.8 billion pounds of pollution reduced is attributed to a settlement that requires 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 (Alabama v. Tennessee Valley Authority, E.D. Tenn., No. 3:11-cv-170, settlement approved.

“Tennessee Valley Authority was a very big case for us this year, and it reflects the focus on looking for the sources of pollution that have the most dramatic effects on health,” Giles said.

EPA said the settlement, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in June, will lead to up to $27 billion in annual health benefits and $350 million spent on environmental projects.

Thousands of Cases Closed, Initiated.

In civil enforcement in fiscal 2011, EPA concluded 3,241 judicial and administrative cases and initiated 3,283 cases.

In criminal enforcement, EPA opened 371 environmental investigations and brought charges against 249 defendants: 197 people and 52 companies.

Defendants were sentenced to a total of 89.5 years of incarceration, and fines and restitution amounted to $35 million plus $2 million in court-ordered environmental projects.

By Jessica Coomes

EPA's fiscal 2011 enforcement and compliance results are available at http://epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/endofyear/eoy2011/index.html.