In a speech given on January 13, Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno addressed 2011 priorities for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice. Ms. Moreno stressed the commitment of the Division to strong enforcement of all environmental laws to ensure the protection of air, water, and other natural resources, as well as the health of all Americans. She further touted the Division’s 2010 successes: securing over $6.5 billion in injunctive relief in civil cases; collecting over $81 million in civil penalties and stipulated penalties; recovering $725 million for Superfund expenditures; obtaining commitments for over $750 million for hazardous waste remediation; and concluding 50 criminal cases against 79 individuals resulting in 28 years of imprisonment and $89 million in fines and restitution. The Division is committed to building upon these significant achievements.
In 2011, the Division will continue its support of an aggressive EPA civil and criminal enforcement program. The Division will prioritize enforcement under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review Program, including company-wide settlement of these actions; municipal sewage and stormwater treatment and collection cases under the Clean Water Act; cleanup of hazardous waste sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act; criminal enforcement, especially with regard to the worker safety initiative to combine environmental and workplace practices; vessel pollution and falsification of ship environmental records; illegal trafficking of wildlife and plants; promotion of environmental justice awareness, policies and ongoing efforts; and the defense of EPA regulatory programs including greenhouse gas emissions.
One would think that in this struggling economy, the government would prioritize compliance assistance with over enforcement of environmental laws. This logic, however, does not resonate in Washington, DC. Instead, EPA and the Division appear intent upon stepping up civil and criminal enforcement of environmental laws against businesses and individual officers responsible for environmental compliance for the business. Companies must, therefore, be more diligent than ever in addressing potential issues under all applicable federal and state environmental laws and regulations. As the consequences of failing to do so may be significant, it is more important than ever that businesses and responsible corporate officers seek experienced environmental attorney in the event of a potential violation of environmental laws and regulations.