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EPA plans to increase criminal enforcement of environmental laws as part of environmental justice efforts

Many of the U.S.’s environmental statutes, such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, contain criminal enforcement measures. These criminal enforcement measures range from significant fines to jail time. On June 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a memorandum outlining the agency’s plans to increase enforcement of these environmental statutes and others.

One part of this increased enforcement effort is the birth of the “Environmental Crime Victims Assistance Program.” This Program is a partnership between the EPA and the Department of Justice with the goal of “improv[ing] attention and support to the victims of environmental crimes.” This group intends to help identify the perpetrators of environmental crime in overburdened areas. The working groups in the Program are tasked with creating new ways to engage with communities and developing more efficient, direct, and accessibly channels for overburdened communities to report environmental crimes in their area.

Another aspect of this new initiative is creating guidelines for the members of the Department of Justice who are prosecuting these crimes that ensure the relief sought actually addresses the harm done and prevents it from reoccurring. This includes seeking conditions of probation or supervised release whenever necessary to ensure compliance and seeking restitution and/or community service to redress the harm done to the community where the crime occurred.

You can read the full text of the memorandum here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2021-06/documents/strengtheningejthroughcriminal062121.pdf

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