Report: EPA’s Criminal Investigation Agents Dwindle as Emissions Fight Continues
A report by environmental advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has raised concerns that the Environmental Protection Agency, which is currently embroiled in a bitter conflict with California and a collection of other states over vehicle emissions regulations, will get around any regulations by simply not having enough people to enforce them.
The report specifically says that the number of special agents in the EPA Criminal Investigation Division (CID), which is responsible for investigating suspected criminal violations of the Clean Air Act and other environmental statutes, has dwindled, from 157 in September 2016 shortly before President Donald Trump was elected to 140 in April of this year. This is the latest part of a long trend, as the last time that the EPA had 200 or more CID agents was way back in 2003.
This trend has unsurprisingly coincided with a declining number of referrals to the Justice Department from the CID, hitting a three-decade low during fiscal year 2017 of 206 cases, compared to 228 referred during the previous fiscal year. The EPA is on track to have even lower referrals for fiscal year 2018.
The last peak of referrals was 413 in 2011.
The report implied that, with the new low number of agents, the CID may be too understaffed to enforce emissions laws, no matter the outcome of the conflict.
In response, the EPA has declared that this reduction in CID agents isn’t due to some new Trump policy as an emissions enforcement workaround. EPA spokesperson Molly Block said, “Administrator Pruitt is committed to enforcing the law and working with our law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice to punish criminals. The change in the number of criminal enforcement agents has occurred over a number of years, and does not reflect any reduction in this Administration’s commitment to enforce the law against wrongdoers.”