WASHINGTON - February 10 - The Bush administration's failure to update penalties for illegal pollution will cost taxpayers at least $39 million, according to a new analysis by U.S. PIRG.
"By failing to adequately enforce environmental laws and stalling mandatory increases in fines for violators, the Bush administration is shortchanging the environment twice," said U.S. PIRG Environmental Advocate Richard Caplan. "The administration not only requires fewer polluters to pay fines for illegal pollution, but it allows polluters who are fined to pay less."
Congress requires EPA to adjust the maximum civil penalty amounts for inflation every four years. EPA failed to meet its last deadline, October 2000, and has yet to implement an adjusted penalty. U.S. PIRG estimates that this delay amounts to a $39 million windfall for polluters.
U.S. PIRG brought this issue to the attention of the agency in January 2003, when EPA told the press that they were "looking to get this in place" and would "propose a new inflation factor next week." Environmentalists point to this failure to update penalties and collect fines that are owed as another example of the administration's failure to protect the environment. The budget released this week by the White House contains sharp cuts for enforcement at EPA for the fourth straight year.
"EPA should put its money where its mouth is," said Caplan. "The Bush administration should do its job and enforce the law."
U.S. PIRG is the national lobby office for the State Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan, public interest advocacy organizations.
The full analysis is posted at http://uspirg.org/reports/StatutoryPenaltyAnalysis2_04.pdf