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Sharp Drop in Environmental Lawsuits Cited

October 18, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 42

A 75% decline in civil lawsuits filed by the federal government for violations of environmental laws was cited in a recent report by the former head of the EPA Office of Regulatory Enforcement. The examination by the Environmental Integrity Project used federal data and compared the first three years of the Bush Administration with the last three years of the Clinton Administration. It found 36 environmental lawsuits filed between January 2001 and January 2004 versus 152 filed in the preceding three years. For instance, looking at Clean Air Act litigation, nine lawsuits were filed in the past three years as compared with 61 in the three years prior to the current Administration. Eric Schaeffer, the report project director, accused the Administration of rewriting regulations and “putting the brakes on enforcement actions.” In response, an EPA spokeswoman says that enforcement is just one tool in its clean air strategy. The official also cites an “ongoing tension” among environmental professionals over the benefits of litigation versus using a market-based approach to clean up the environment. The official notes that the Administration’s proposed air regulations, which rely largely on pollution trading, are expected to result in large pollution reductions when implemented.


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