The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Thursday that it will use criminal and civil enforcement resources for the first time to specifically mitigate climate change.
The EPA stated that it would further the Biden administration’s goal of environmental justice for “disadvantaged communities” by mitigating climate change and heavily regulating methane output from oil and gas sites, according to a press release. The agency made the announcement as part of its latest National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives statement, which it releases every four fiscal years, according to a memorandum on the initiative.
“EPA’s new national initiatives address urgent 21st century environmental problems, while upholding the rule of law to level the playing field for law-abiding companies and promoting a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren,” EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance David M. Uhlmann said in the press release. “Working closely with our state partners, EPA enforcement efforts will mitigate climate change and limit exposure to the scourge of PFAS contamination, while addressing the reality that, for too long in the United States, the worst effects of pollution have plagued overburdened communities.”
The agency pointed to extreme noncompliance with their laws in the United States and claimed there could be “potentially tens of thousands of tons of unlawful emissions of greenhouse gases [sic] and other pollutants,” according to the memo.
.@EPA’s new national enforcement and compliance initiatives address our nation’s most pressing environmental concerns, while ensuring a level playing field for law-abiding companies and a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. https://t.co/Rew8X8oGm6
— Michael Regan, U.S. EPA (@EPAMichaelRegan) August 18, 2023
The EPA stated that these efforts would help align the agency with their broad Strategic Plan, which proposed sweeping regulations of widely-used items such as air conditioning units, refrigerators, cars and fossil fuel power plants over the next 15 years.
Although the agency said it would use civil enforcement in response to some emissions violations, it said it would rely on criminal enforcement to fight “significant noncompliance in specific industry sectors,” according to the memo. The EPA currently uses criminal enforcement to respond to “environmental crimes,” or instances where individuals knowingly by negligent action violate environmental law, according to the agency’s website.
EPA requested a budget of $12 billion in March 2023, a 19% increase from 2022 and their largest budget to date, to potentially rectify their employment shortage, according to the Federal News Network.
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