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Enforcement Annual Results for Fiscal Year 2017

EPA’s enforcement and compliance results for 2017 demonstrate the Agency’s progress in working with federal, state and tribal partners to expand environmental compliance and enforce the rule of law.

Discussion of 2017 accomplishments and highlights of specific cases:

EPA’s enforcement program is helping carry out Administrator Pruitt’s goal of expediting the remediation of contaminated sites by reinvigorating cleanup efforts by potentially responsible parties and encouraging private investment to facilitate cleanup and reuse.  In FY 2017, the value of commitments by private parties to clean up sites increased to more than $1.2 billion. In FY 2017, the environmental benefits of EPA Superfund and RCRA Corrective Action enforcement also increased, with commitments to address an estimated 20.5 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and 412 million cubic yards of contaminated water. 

EPA also entered into agreements with third parties to do work at Superfund sites.  For example, in July 2017, the United States reached a settlement agreement with a third party to conduct response actions at three parcels within the Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman Superfund study area in Mountain View, California so that the properties will meet standards that are protective for residential redevelopment.

EPA is increasing the deterrent effect of EPA’s enforcement program through criminal enforcement actions to address the most egregious cases. In FY 2017, environmental criminals were required to pay a total of $2.98 billion in fines, restitution, and mitigation, and were sentenced to serve over 150 years in jail.  These include a $2.8 billion criminal fine paid by Volkswagen to settle allegations that it used illegal software to cheat emissions tests and avoid Clean Air Act compliance. Under the terms of a plea agreement, Tyson Poultry Inc. has agreed to pay a $2 million criminal fine (and serve two years of probation) resulting from a September 2017 guilty plea to two criminal charges of violating the Clean Water Act.

EPA is finding ways to maximize the effectiveness of its civil enforcement actions to return facilities to compliance. In FY 2017, EPA enforcement actions resulted in requirements for companies to invest nearly $20 billion in actions and equipment to control pollution.  These actions will result in the proper management of approximately 245 million pounds of hazardous waste and commitments to reduce, treat, or eliminate an estimated 217 million pounds of other pollutants.

EPA’s civil enforcement actions also deter future violations and ensure a level playing field for the regulated community by assessing penalties, including penalties to cover the economic benefit of noncompliance. In FY 2017, EPA assessed nearly $1.6 billion in federal administrative and civil judicial penalties. EPA continues to hold federal agencies to the same standards as the private sector, assessing over $2.5 million in penalties at federal facilities in FY 2017.

FY 2017 civil penalties include a $1.45 billion Clean Air Act penalty in the Volkswagen case.  EPA is continuing to address mobile source Clean Air Act violations.  In May 2017, EPA filed a complaint against FCA US LLC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., V.M. Motori S.p.A., and V.M. North America, Inc. alleging violations similar to those in the Volkswagen case, affecting nearly 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles.

EPA’s civil enforcement actions are strategic to maximize compliance results, not the number of individual actions.  For example, in July 2017 EPA signed a consent decree to settle potential violations related to a company’s chemical risk management responsibilities, including a penalty of just under $1 million to recognize the company’s voluntary actions and cooperation. By using audits and a requirement to correct any violations found, this consent decree will lead to compliance at 28 facilities in 18 states. With this one case EPA is generating high-value results in communities across the country.

States and tribes are often authorized to be the primary implementers of federal environmental law.  Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of EPA’s enforcement actions are taken in programs that are: (1) not delegable to the state or a federally-recognized tribe; (2) in states or tribes that have not sought authorization to implement a delegable program; or (3) in states or tribes that do not have the resources, expertise, or the will to take action, or that seek assistance from the Agency—and all of these actions are taken in coordination with the states or tribes.  As a result, in FY 2017, EPA continued the trend of reducing the number of individual federal inspections and federal enforcement actions. These numbers do not count informal actions or EPA assistance with state enforcement actions.

Looking forward, EPA is developing new measures to help focus the enforcement program on returning facilities to compliance by setting goals to reduce the time between the identification of an environmental law violation and its correction and to increase environmental law compliance rates.  EPA also is developing measures to fully capture all the enforcement and compliance assistance work the Agency undertakes by tracking informal, as well as formal, enforcement and compliance actions and support to states.

FY 2017 Enforcement Highlights:

  • Further information on the Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman Superfund settlement agreement is available here.
  • Further information on EPA’s actions against Volkswagen AG (VW) is available here
  • Further information on EPA’s complaint against FCA US LLC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., V.M. Motori S.p.A., and V.M. North America, Inc. is available here.
  • Further information on EPA’s actions against Tyson Poultry Inc. is available here.    
  • Further information on the settlement agreement with Harcros Chemicals Inc. to address 28 facilities in 18 states is available here.  
  • Under a settlement with EPA, the Department of Justice, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Vopak Terminal Deer Park Inc. and Vopak Logistics Services USA, Inc. agreed to strengthen air pollution controls and compliance with federal and state clean air laws at their chemical storage terminal and wastewater treatment facility in Deer Park, Texas.  Vopak also will pay a penalty of $2.5 million. The agreement improves air quality in the Houston area.
  • Whole Foods Market voluntarily disclosed to EPA that it may not have consistently made sufficient hazardous waste determinations on discarded consumer products.  Under a settlement with EPA, Whole Foods will pay a $500,000 civil penalty and spend $2.75 million to perform a supplemental environmental project to protect children’s health by replacing older fluorescent lighting fixtures that contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in public schools and community centers serving children located in low to moderate income areas.
  • Under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and EPA, StarKist Co. and its subsidiary, Starkist Samoa Co., agreed to make a series of upgrades to reduce wastewater pollution, improve safety measures, and comply with important federal environmental laws at their tuna processing facility in American Samoa. Under the agreement, StarKist will pay a $6.5 million penalty and provide emergency response equipment to American Samoa for use in responding to chemical releases. The agreement will help prevent hazardous releases at the StarKist facility, protect workers and the local community, and reduce pollution discharges by more than 13 million pounds each year.
  • In one of several sentencings related to a conspiracy involving Gen-X Energy Group, Inc., Richard Estes of Renton, Washington, was sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. Between March of 2013 and May of 2014, Estes and his co-conspirators laundered the proceeds of schemes to (1) falsely claim the production of marketable renewable energy credits; and (2) file false claims for refunds of excise credits with the IRS. Estes was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 105 months. `In addition, Estes was ordered to pay $4,360,724.50 in restitution to the taxpayers of the United States.
  • Working with the Department of the Interior, an EPA investigation led to a conviction of Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC (BEE) on eight felony violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and one misdemeanor count of violating the Clean Water Act. The charges stemmed from events causing an explosion in November 2012 on an offshore oil production platform that resulted in the deaths of three workers and injuries to several others.

Progress on our National Enforcement Initiatives: