Washington, D.C. – On March 8, NELC Senior Attorney Josh Kratka participated in a roundtable meeting between environmental organizations and top enforcement officials in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Attendees included Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, and representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice. After Giles described the EPA’s current enforcement priorities, Kratka suggested three additional areas for the EPA’s attention.
First, Kratka suggested cracking down on polluter “sweetheart deals,” in which state officials agree not to enforce pollution limits in federal permits, and in return, polluting companies claim on public reporting forms that they are in compliance with their permits. The EPA needs to tighten reporting requirements, Kratka argued, so that illegal pollution cannot be hidden in this way.
Second, Kratka and EIP’s Eric Schaeffer, former director of Civil Enforcement at the EPA, urged the EPA to formally revise its regulations governing industrial flares. Refinery and chemical plant flares have been shown to emit harmful air pollutants at more than 10 times legally allowable rates.
Finally, Kratka recommended that, when settling cases against polluters, the EPA should prohibit companies from taking tax deductions for the civil penalties they pay. Kratka provided Giles with a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group documenting this problem.