EPA Update, Partner Steve Knowlton Discusses

President Trump is expected to sign executive orders scaling back the EPA’s climate change and enforcement work, but is reportedly waiting until after his nominee for EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt is confirmed by the Senate.


EPA insiders report that Trump is looking to close the EPA’s Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance Office (OECA) which would significantly reduce civil enforcement of EPA’s orders and mandates.  If accomplished, this action would essentially mirror the tack that Scott Pruitt took in 2011 in trying to close Oklahoma’s Environmental Protection Unit.  When EPA was first formed in 1970 it did not have an independent enforcement arm.  Before EPA’s creation, enforcement was primarily left to the states. The OECA was created in the early 1990’s to centralize reporting and enforcement in a single department of the EPA.  EPA created OECA from the Office of Enforcement & Compliance Monitoring (OECM), which, the source familiar with the plan says, did not identify enforcement cases but acted as more of a vessel to raise cross-cutting issues such as inspections, civil penalty policies, media-related information and contracts. It was only after OECA was formed that enforcement was centralized with consistent messaging from headquarters on priorities and other matters.


If, as it seems evident presently, the Trump Administration shutters the OECA and cuts back EPA’s activities, who will fill the yawning enforcement gap that will result?  Clearly, enforcement will fall back into the hands of the states, as in the pre-EPA era.  But with limited state funds and the threat of slashed funding for state Departments of Environmental Conservation and Protection (DEC and DEP) how effective can the states be in enforcing environmental regulations?


One answer is law firms like the Locks Law Firm.  With decreased state funding and the imminent reduction of the role and reach of the EPA, enforcement of environmental laws and orders may fall to private citizens, local municipalities and the private law firms that service them.  The environmental attorneys at the Locks Firm are actively investigating and litigating cases on behalf of private citizens and municipalities who have suffered loss of property value or other damages due to pollution on or beneath their properties.  We are currently investigating cases concerning TCE, PFOA, PCB and other types of toxic substances that have or are continuing to contaminate air, groundwater and land.


If you have a question concerning potential or actual environmental contamination on or near your property, please contact us for a consultation.

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