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Release Date: 07/23/96
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it referred a record number of criminal enforcement actions to the U.S. Department of Justice in Fiscal Year 1995, reflecting EPA's stepped-up targeting of the worst polluters and the most significant threats to public health and the environment. These actions are part of the Agency's common-sense approach to increasing compliance with environmental laws by taking aggressive actions against flagrant polluters while providing assistance for those businesses that seek to comply.

EPA also reported today on enforcement actions during the first two quarters of FY 1996, the period in which the federal government was affected by the shut down.

"These record criminal enforcement actions are highly significant because criminal cases typically involve the greatest risks to public health and the environment," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "We will continue our dual policy of making sure that recalcitrant polluters are punished while those who want to achieve compliance receive assistance to meet tough standards and requirements," Browner added.

The results, detailed in EPA's "1995 Enforcement Accomplishments Report," show 256 criminal cases referred to the Justice Department and 562 new criminal investigations started and $23 million in penalties for environmental crimes. Most significantly, EPA as a result of targeted civil enforcement secured almost $1.65 billion that will directly benefit the environment by funding pollution control equipment and other environmental projects. Moreover, EPA collected over $70 million in civil penalties and took over 3,200 civil enforcement actions. There was $851 million collected for Superfund private party cleanups.

EPA took fewer than 600 civil actions during the first two quarters of FY 1996, compared to 1400 in the first two quarters of FY 1995. While enforcement actions were down during the first two quarters of FY 1996, a number of major actions were taken to abate serious environmental problems. Among them were the largest penalty ever for auto emissions in a $45 million settlement with the General Motors Corp. and the historic settlement of the Love Canal toxic waste site, in which Occidental Chemical Co. agreed to pay $129 million in cleanup costs.

"EPA's enforcement actions have increased long-term compliance while punishing polluters who put profit above public health and the environment," said Steve Herman, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement Compliance and Assurance. "The 1996 figures released today show the devastating impact of the Government shutdown. Fortunately, funding for EPA enforcement is back at viable levels, and we will continue to protect the health and environment of the American


Among the new strategic approaches to increasing compliance undertaken by EPA in 1995 are:

    Establishment of a new policy on environmental audits to encourage and reward responsible companies that discover violations, disclose them promptly and correct them. Under the new policy, 65 companies have already come forward with disclosures.
    Expanded assistance for small businesses through a policy that allows small businesses seeking assistance to come into compliance without facing enforcement penalties.
    Four new compliance assistance centers to help more than one million small businesses in metal finishing, printing, automotive repair and farming industries more easily comply with the law.
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