There are few American values we cherish more than fair play and accountability. These values guide any strong law enforcement program that holds bad actors to account when they do harm to others.
That is certainly true of how we operated at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, where I worked until last year. EPA’s enforcement deters irresponsible and criminal conduct, cuts down on pollution in our communities, and is central to EPA’s mission to protect public health.
This sacred obligation to the American people is now in grave jeopardy because the Trump administration wants to slash the EPA budget by 31%, raising the specter of virtually no money available for core programs such as enforcement.
That would mean taking the environmental cop off the beat.
Imagine a world in which profit-driven companies can cut corners, cheat or knowingly take actions that poison our air, water and lands — with impunity. We must not return to an era when rivers caught on fire, cities looked like midnight at noon because of dirty air, and communities were built on abandoned toxic waste dumps.
EPA's enforcement office does more than just slap penalties on polluters and then move on. In case after case, through mutually-agreed upon settlements, defendants are required to invest money into solutions to come back into compliance. That’s money that companies are putting into programs that make our communities cleaner, healthier and safer.