Environmental enforcement declines, prosecutions spotty

According to TRAC (the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which has compiled all manner of government data, including environmental enforcement data), environmental enforcement has declined across the board during the Bush administration, and prosecution of polluters has not been consistent nationwide. From the report on declining environmental enforcement: Federal prosecutors have filed environmental charges against substantially fewer defendants during the administration of President Bush than they did during either of President Clinton's two terms . . . . The contrast between the Clinton and Bush years is dramatic.
  • From the first Clinton term (1993-1996) to the second (1997-2000), the number of all kinds of environmental prosecutions jumped by more than a quarter, 28%.
  • But a comparison of the second Clinton term (1997-2000) with the Bush years (2002-2004) shows the opposite, a drop of 23%.
From the report on unevenness in prosecution of polluters: [T]he U.S. Attorneys and their assistants throughout the country declined to prosecute well over half (922) of [the 1,600 polluting companies and individuals referred, from the beginning of FY 2001 to the first quarter of FY 2004] -- or 58 percent. On each of these, however, investigative agencies had referred the matter to federal prosecutors believing the evidence indicated they were criminal violators. . . . Among the most commonly cited reasons for declining to prosecute were weak evidence, lack of criminal intent, and agency request or office policy. . . . Variation in the extent to which the individual U.S. Attorneys -- almost all of them appointed to office by the president -- choose to exercise their discretion is considerable. . . .
  • In the Tampa area, Florida Middle, the U.S. Attorneys office for one reason or another declined to file criminal charges against nine out of ten of the 55 individuals or businesses the agencies had recommended be charged with criminal pollution violations. For active districts, this was the highest "declination rate" in the country.
  • In Alaska and the Mobile area in Alabama, Alabama South, the U.S. Attorneys chose to decline more than four out of five of the pollution matters.
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