is the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.



Widespread Non-Enforcement of Environmental Laws - Is it time for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to Investigate Federal Agencies?

The environment and public health have a right to protection under both common and U.S. laws. In the 1970's, the U.S. Congress passed a host of laws to enforce environmental protection. However, widespread lack of enforcement by both federal and state agencies is a harsh reality. Environmental laws have suffered from second-class status and are often treated by regulatory agencies as options or guidelines, rather than laws that must be enforced.

It is well past time for the DOJ, which hosts the nation's largest environmental legal staff, to conduct a comprehensive investigation and bring legal action against these agencies. It is important to recognize that this can present some problems for the DOJ, since the agency is also charged with legally representing federal agencies.

To date, environmental groups and some states (see: New York sues EPA) have assumed the role of law enforcement (see: Enviros Sue Feds).

It is important to understand why enforcement by federal and state authorities is critical. History has shown that when citizens take corporate, private entities, or individuals to court, these entities often point to the regulatory government agency that allowed them to act, tacitly or explicitly, as they did. Therefore, it is a better legal strategy to pursue the regulatory agency(s), rather than or in additon to, the private or corporate entity.

As a practical matter, citizen lawsuits against government agencies can't be filed quick enough to counteract the damage done by widespread lack of enforcement. It is time for the DOJ to act.

See: The Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)


In the case of "cumulative impact", The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 40 (Environmental Protection), Chapter I (Environmental Protection Agency-EPA), Subchapter APart 1, Sec. 1.3 Purpose and functions, states:

"The U.S. EPA permits coordinated and effective governmental action to assure the protection of the environment by abating and controlling pollution on a systematic basis. Reorganization Plan 3 of 1970 transferred to EPA a variety of research, monitoring, standard setting, and enforcement activities related to pollution abatement and control to provide for the treatment of the environment as a single interrelated system. Complementary to these activities are the Agency's coordination and support of research and antipollution activities carried out by State and local governments, private and public groups, individuals, and educational institutions."

EPA routinely does not address "cumulative impact" in its regulations or enforcement, although it is clearly required to do so as part of EPA's Purpose and Function: "...transferred to EPA a variety of research, monitoring, standard setting, and enforcement activities related to pollution abatement and control to provide for the



For a list of the EPA's Inspector General REPORTS ON-LINE referred to in the NY Times article:

AIR ENFORCEMENT - Region 6's Oversight of New Mexico Air Enforcement Data
Report No. E1GAF7-06-0032-8100078
March 13, 1998

AIR - Region 10's Oversight of Washington State's Air Compliance and Enforcement Program
Report No. E1KAF7-10-0015-8100094
March 30, 1998

WATER - Missouri's Water Quality Standards and Monitoring
Report No. E1HWF7-07-002308100080
March 31, 1998

WATER - Region 10's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Program
Report No. E1HWF7-10-0012-8100076
March 13, 1998

Government Accounting Office (GAO) Reports & Testimony

  • GAO Says EPA Inconsistent on State Enforcement & Compliance in the following GAO Report & Testimony: EPA's and States' Efforts to Focus State Enforcement Programs on Results
    • Testimony-June 24, 1998: (15 pages)
    • Report-May 27, 1998: (95 pages)