The latest data from the Environmental Crimes Project at the University of Michigan Law School showed a dramatic drop in pollution prosecutions during the first two years under former President Donald J. Trump. The data, which now includes 14 years of cases from 2005–2018, showed a 70 percent decrease in Clean Water Act prosecutions under President Trump, as well as a more than 50 percent decrease in Clean Air Act prosecutions. The data again showed that most defendants charged with pollution crime commit misconduct involving one or more of the aggravating factors identified in my previous scholarship, so prosecutors continue to reserve criminal prosecution for conduct involving those aggravating factors and rarely prosecute when none of those factors is present. The significant drop in the number of defendants prosecuted, however, raises questions about the extent to which broader changes at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department may have had a negative impact on the federal environmental crimes program, which historically received support under Democratic and Republican presidents, regardless of their environmental policies. The longer term trends also may raise challenges for the Biden administration’s efforts to revitalize environmental protection efforts.
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Sponsored by: Civil and Criminal Committee of the D.C. Bar Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Community Related Community of Interest: D.C. Bar Criminal Law and Individual Rights Community; D.C. Bar Law Student Community
David M. Uhlmann, Director, Environmental Law and Policy Program University of Michigan Law School