Report Faults the EPA for Lack of Environmental Enforcement in Great Lakes States

A report by the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) shows a decrease in environmental enforcement in six Midwest states. The ELPC calls for increased funding. The EPA states the claims errors in data reporting are responsible for the drop.

April 28, 2020, 11:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


great lakes

NASA Goddard Space Flight / Flickr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is relaxing environmental enforcement, staffing, and spending in six Great Lakes states, according to a report published by the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC).

The EPA's Region 5, which includes Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, opened fewer environmental enforcement cases since 2017. "The number of cases opened by the agency had hovered at roughly 300 or more until fiscal year 2016 when cases dropped to an average of 230. The group said the data shows there’s also been a sharp increase in the number of major permitted facilities found in significant noncompliance with the Clean Water Act since fiscal year 2017," writes Danielle Kaeding.

EPA funding has declined since the Trump administration took office, resulting in a reduction in fines, civil penalties, and staff, according to the article. State pollution programs have seen a similar drop in funding, falling from about $107 million in 2008 to about $69 million in the 2018 fiscal year.

An EPA spokesperson stated that data reporting issues are "a key reason for recent increases in reported rates of significant noncompliance in Region 5." The agency aims to work with noncompliant permitted facilities to reduce the current rate of sewage overflows by half by 2022.

Howard Learner, executive director of ELPC, argues that the numbers don't add up. Learner asks that the EPA request additional funding from Congress to maintain its resources in addition to spending all currently available funding.

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