On Feb. 26, 2019, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled "EPA's Enforcement Program: Taking the Environmental Cop Off the Beat." According to the Chairman's Memorandum, the hearing will examine the effectiveness and consistency of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in implementing and enforcing federal environmental regulations and laws, as well as the resulting impacts of the Agency's efforts and actions on human health and the environment. Concerns have been raised that enforcement and compliance results have recently declined across a broad variety of key measures. Both the value of injunctive relief and administrative and judicial penalties were the lowest levels in over a decade based on the 2018 year-end report. The hearing will also examine the impact of staff reductions and proposed budget cuts.
A number of witnesses will testify, and the hearing will be live-streamed. Specifically, the Subcommittee will hear first from Susan Bodine, the current Assistant Administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance for EPA. Then, a panel of former government officials from EPA and the Department of Justice (DOJ), Environmental and Natural Resources Division, as well as representatives from a number of environmental organizations and academia are also slated to testify.
Among the concerns to be evaluated is the role of recent policy changes and directives concerning enforcement which some believe have impacted the level of enforcement. The Chairman's Memorandum identifies several of these policy memoranda issued by EPA in 2018. In addition, DOJ released several policy changes impacting environmental enforcement in 2018 which were described in prior blog posts here, here, and here. Only time will tell whether the Subcommittee's inquiry will result in any change to EPA's approach to enforcement.