Agency Hits Bottom Under Trump Administration
President Biden’s EPA takes over after four long years of industry favoritism and regulatory rollbacks under the Trump Administration. Not only did Trump have a former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, and an oil and gas industry ally, Scott Pruitt, running EPA. His administration also weakened or eliminated almost 100 environmental safeguards, including everything from air pollution control rules to vehicle fuel efficiency standards, with the pace picking up at the end. The Trump EPA was also responsible for a continued decline in environmental law enforcement, reaching historic lows in several categories in fiscal year 2020.
The Environmental Integrity Project analyzed two decades of EPA data, which shows that the Trump Administration EPA, in its final year, had the lowest number of civil judicial environmental cases concluded (82), the lowest number of civil judicial cases referred for prosecution (81), the lowest number of inspections (8,544), and the fourth lowest Superfund cleanup and cost recovery totals ($815 million) in the last 20 years.
“The results released today and over the past four years confirm the long-term decline in federal enforcement of environmental law, whether compared to the record under the Obama Administration or over the past two decades, said Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former Director of Civil Enforcement at EPA. “These declines in environmental enforcement can be found in the number of cases brought against violators; the number of inspections to check on whether industries are complying with federal environmental laws; the penalties that polluters are required to pay for breaking those laws; and the amounts that responsible parties are required to spend to clean up abandoned dumping sites under Superfund, or to install pollution control equipment needed to stop illegal emissions of air or water pollution.”
Some long-term trends revealed in the EPA data released yesterday, after adjusting for inflation to 2020 dollars:
Despite boasts from the Trump EPA about its efforts to clean up Superfund sites, federal data show a sharp decline in Superfund cleanup investments during the Trump Administration, as compared to the Obama and George W. Bush years. EPA data show an average of $999 million annually spent on Superfund cleanup projects during federal fiscal years 2017-2020. This was about half the $2 billion per year from 2009-2016 (during Obama’s term); and about 33 percent less than the $1.5 billion per year average from 2001 to 2008, during George W. Bush’s two terms.
Civil penalties against polluters were significantly lower under Trump than Obama, but slightly better than under George W. Bush.
Federal numbers show an average of $603 million per year in civil penalties recovered from polluters from 2017-2020, compared to $1 billion annually from 2009-2016 (during Obama’s term) and $159 million annually during George W. Bush’s two terms.
The new EPA data also show the lowest annual amount spent by polluters on “injunctive relief” In civil cases. That is money that enforcement agreements require polluters to spend on pollution controls or cleanup projects under the federal Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other non-Superfund cases. The amount spent in fiscal 2020 ($2.5 billion) is about a quarter of the 20-year average of $9.9 billion. Injunctive relief averaged $8 billion between the 2017 and 2020 fiscal years, but that includes a $4.7 billion consent decree with Volkswagen approved on October 26, 2016, while the Obama Administration was still in office (the 2017 federal fiscal year began on October 1, 2016).
EPA’s inspections of polluters fell to a record low under the Trump Administration.
EPA conducted an average of 10,371 inspections per year from fiscal years 2017 through 2020, compared to 18,082 annually from 2009-2016, and 20,139 annually from 2001 to 2008.
Where a polluter’s violations appear intentional, EPA will work with the Justice Department or U.S. District Attorneys to bring criminal prosecution that can result in jail time or steep fines for the guilty parties. The EPA opened 129 criminal cases in 2018. That was slightly more than the previous year, but only about a third of the levels reported between 2008 and 2013. The number of new criminal cases has declined sharply since 2013. Criminal cases against polluters have been declining for two decades, but then plummeted by more than half under Trump compared to Obama. Federal data show that EPA opened an average of 165 criminal cases per year between fiscal years 2017-2020, compared to 297 annually from 2009-2016, and 400 annually from 2001 to 2008. However, EPA did open 274 new criminal cases in 2020, a significant increase compared to the prior year.
For the most part, EPA refers the worst violators to the U.S. Department of Justice for civil prosecution. Civil cases against polluters have been falling for years, but hit a low under Trump. EPA referred an average of 106 civil cases to the Justice Department for prosecutions from fiscal years 2017-2019, compared to 211 per year from 2009-2016 and 278 per year from 2001 to 2008. In some cases, these declines perpetuate a long-term trend driven in part by the enforcement program’s shrinking budget.
EPA Fraud On Biosolids, Wastewater Reclamation
The risk assessments prepared by the U.S. EPA for wastewater treatment and sewage sludge are flawed and current practices of recycling this infectious waste are fueling a public health disaster. Many risks are not addressed, including prions and radioactive waste. They don’t mention prions or radiation because there is no answer. Most nations are making the same mistake. We’re dumping killer proteins on crops, parks, golf courses, gardens, ski areas, school grounds and beyond. Wind, rain and irrigation spread these contaminants and many more throughout our communities and watersheds.
Meanwhile, its outdated risk assessments are still in use. They are promoting a public health disaster. The neurotoxins found in sewage, including heavy metals, also are contributing to the global spike in autism, which follows the same timing and trajectory as the spike in neurodegenerative diseases.
“Since it’s unlikely that the sewage treatment process can effectively stop prions, adopting measures to prevent the entry of prions into the sewer system is advisable,” said the Toronto Department of Health, November 2004.
Once unleashed on the environment, prions remain infectious. They migrate, mutate and multiply as they infect crops, water supplies, wildlife, livestock, sea mammals and humans. According to prion researcher Joel Pedersen at the University of Wisconsin, prions in soil become up to 680 times more infectious. From there, they migrate, mutate and multiply. It’s a real world version of Pandora’s Lunchbox.
“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most prions would bond to sewage sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said. “Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their introduction into the environment. I emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems.”
Pedersen also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage (biosolids) is dumped. Read more about infectious waste and the prion pandemic.
The Biden Administration has pledged to set a dramatically different course. Biden has promised to take action on climate change and environmental injustices and reverse the most harmful of Trump’s environmental rollbacks. To lead that effort, Biden has EPA Administrator Michael Regan, a former EPA air pollution specialist and Environmental Defense Fund vice president for clean energy programs who has served as Administrator of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
The Environmental Integrity Project is a 19-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment. Read its report Less Enforcement: Communities At Risk, which illustrates how the decline in EPA enforcement leads to public health hazards.