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EPA Lax On Enforcement, Says Environmental Group

The EPA is charged with enforcing regulations against dumping toxins into waterways like the Boise River.
Aaron Kunz
The EPA is charged with enforcing regulations against dumping toxins into waterways like the Boise River.

The Environmental Protection Agency is responding to criticism that the agency is lax in enforcing regulations like the  Clean Water Act.

 Click 'play' to hear the audio version of this story.

The critical analysis comes from the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.It shows the federal government referred significantly fewer cases to the Department of Justice than it has in years past.  "Under the Trump Administration enforcement has fallen pretty drastically," says Kyla Bennett with PEER. She says the crimes the EPA investigates can be pretty serious. "Purposefully dumping some kind of hazardous waste into waterways. Allowing waste from a coal mine to enter a waterway, something like that." 

Trump’s pick to head the EPA disputed PEER’s analysis during his Senate confirmation hearing this week. Andrew Wheeler said the agency is focused on encouraging compliance in addition to prosecution.  

"I think the more compliance assurance that we have, the fewer enforcement actions that we need to take," said Wheeler. 

In the Mountain West region, the EPA prosecuted a total of 10 criminal cases in 2017 and 2018. 

Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Amanda Peacher is an Arthur F. Burns fellow reporting and producing in Berlin in 2013. Amanda is from Portland, Oregon, where she works as the public insight journalist for Oregon Public Broadcasting. She produces radio and online stories, data visualizations, multimedia projects, and facilitates community engagement opportunities for OPB's newsroom.
Amanda Peacher
Amanda Peacher works for the Mountain West News Bureau out of Boise State Public Radio. She's an Idaho native who returned home after a decade of living and reporting in Oregon. She's an award-winning reporter with a background in community engagement and investigative journalism.
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