Oversight or Overlook?
In October 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson declared that eco-enforcement by the states needed to dramatically improve and that one of her top seven priorities was to strengthen state enforcement through tough and consistent oversight.
A new report by the EPA Inspector General suggests that Ms. Jackson apparently confused oversight with overlook. Contrary to her vow, the IG finds–
- “State enforcement programs are underperforming…non-compliance is high and the level of enforcement is low”;
- “EPA does not act effectively to curtail weak and inconsistent enforcement by states”; and
- EPA lacks a coherent “national enforcement program” but rejects the IG suggestion to establish one.
EPA can step in itself to take enforcement action but the IG says EPA fails to “intervene decisively” even against major violations. This means laws like the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts are no safety net for Americans whose exposure to pollutants depends upon the state where they reside.
Consider these cases of eco-abdication by states which PEER has brought to EPA but the agency has yet to take action –
- Deadly vapors are seeping into hundreds of New Jersey homes;
- Drinking water in Boca Raton, Florida is routinely contaminated with sewage. Meanwhile, wastewater treatment plants daily engage in massive pollution violations; and
- Effluents from a Koch Industries paper mill in Arkansas are permitted to turn local waters into an industrial sludge pit. Take a look for yourself. Through its concerted inaction, EPA has neutered critical environmental laws just as effectively as its most rabid GOP detractors.
It will take a drumbeat of cases and pressure to transform the EPA rhetorical show horse into a prosecuting workhorse. So, pick up a drumstick and lend us a hand.