On May 13, 2021, EPA’s Office of Inspector General issued “Resource Constraints, Leadership Decisions, and Workforce Culture Led to a Decline in Federal Enforcement.” The Report is the result of an audit of EPA’s enforcement trends for fiscal years 2006 through 2018, years that included all or part of the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations.
Declining Resources for Enforcement
Among the conclusions, the Report stated, “decline in enforcement resources was a primary driver behind the observed declining enforcement trends, resulting in fewer compliance monitoring activities and concluded enforcement actions.”
EPA Cannot Determine How Its Enforcement Efforts Influence Compliance
In addition to the unremarkable conclusion that fewer enforcement resources led to fewer enforcement cases, the Report addressed other issues, including the lack of data to show a relationship between enforcement efforts and compliance:
- [T]he Agency does not collect or estimate noncompliance rates or use another method for establishing a baseline against which the Agency can measure the effectiveness of the enforcement program. As such, the EPA cannot measure or demonstrate how the Agency’s enforcement activities influence overall compliance.
This shows the complete lack of evidentiary support for statements that EPA’s diminished enforcement has decreased compliance and harmed the environment. For example, the Report mentions a former high-ranking EPA official’s complaint that some states did not ask EPA to bring enforcement cases, “much to the detriment of the people who live in those states.” Either this former official had data and analyses withheld from the rest of EPA or the conclusion of “much to the detriment” has no actual support.
To see the one-page “At a Glance” summary of the Report https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2021-05/documents/_epaoig_20210513-21-p-0132_glance.pdf