Laws are only as good as their enforcement. During his four years in office, former President Donald Trump’s appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, decimated the agency’s ability to catch and penalize polluters breaking environmental rules. As a result of this and longer-term trends, facility inspections and civil cases filed against polluting operations like chemical plants and wastewater treatment centers dropped to their lowest levels in a decade last year.
The Biden administration is now attempting to reverse course. While the new president’s flurry of executive orders promoting a unified national and international strategy to tackle climate change have made headlines, his nascent efforts to restore the EPA’s ability to use its full range of enforcement powers have received less attention. After Biden signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to “hold polluters accountable,” the Department of Justice, or DOJ, retracted nine Trump policy documents last month.
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