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DOJ Nixes Trump Enforcement Limits

Interim U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) leaders have revoked nine Trump-era environmental law enforcement directives. The move restores important tools for deterring illegal pollution and promoting effective cleanup.

Among the changes are the restoration of DOJ’s discretion to seek additional civil penalties against polluters who had already been fined by state enforcement authorities for a particular environmental violation. This is an important tool for use particularly in cases when the state fines were too small to encourage compliance or cover environmental harm. 

The changes also include again allowing the use of “Supplemental Environmental Projects” (SEPs) as part of enforcement settlements. In effect, SEPs allow a violator to shift some of its liability from paying a fine to paying for an environmental restoration or pollution cleanup project. SEPs have been popular tools with support from both industry and environmental advocates.

The DOJ action came in response to the Biden executive order directing all federal agencies to address and change previous actions that would otherwise conflict with the new administration’s environmental protection, justice, and climate action goals.

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