Fines for illegal pollution plummet under Trump

Sulfur in coal is a big cause of air pollution. – 

WASHINGTON (AP) —Fines for illegal pollution have plummeted under President Donald Trump, according to analysis by an environmental advocacy group.

The Environmental Integrity Project looked at that civil penalties paid by polluters during the first six months under Trump. The group published an analysis Thursday that found penalties were less than half their levels under each of the past three presidents.

The analysis found that Trump’s Justice Department settled 26 civil cases against companies over environmental violations, totaling $12 million in penalties. That’s a 60 percent drop on average from comparable time periods under presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, even before adjustments for inflation.

Besides reaching fewer settlements, the group said, environmental offenders also were required to perform less cleanup under Trump and make smaller reductions to future pollution.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said Thursday it continues to “vigorously enforce” environmental laws.

The report’s authors cautioned that six months represent only an eighth of a presidential term but said the early news is neither encouraging nor surprising. Trump and his Environmental Enforcement Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, have complained that federal regulations are often too onerous and stifle the growth of American businesses.

“President Trump campaigned on a promise of ‘law and order,’ but apparently law enforcement for big polluters is not what he had in mind,” Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement. He previously served as director of EPA’s civil enforcement office under both Clinton and Bush.

“If this drop-off in environmental enforcement continues, it will leave more people breathing more air pollution or swimming in waterways with more waste,” Schaeffer said.

Under the first six months under Obama, the Justice Department…

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