May 17, 2021

Chairs DeFazio and Napolitano Statements on EPA OIG Report Finding Decline in Enforcement of Nation’s Environmental Laws

Washington, DC – Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) issued the following statements after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a troubling report that found enforcement activity within the agency declined over the past decade due to resource constraints and leadership decisions.

“This new report from the EPA OIG is extremely troubling and demands a course correction in short order to ensure the EPA’s mission—to protect public health and the environment—doesn’t see further degradation. The American people deserve nothing less,” Chair DeFazio said. “Thankfully, with President Biden and Administrator Michael Regan at the helm, I have confidence EPA can get back on track. As the Chair of the Committee that has jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act, I’m going to continue to conduct critical oversight of EPA and work with the Biden administration to make sure we restore a level playing field to protect our health, the environment, and bolster our nation’s economy. That includes ensuring the EPA immediately scraps the previous administration’s ‘Dirty Water’ rule, which has allowed—and continues to allow—countless rivers, streams, and wetlands to lose federal clean water protections and be drained, destroyed, or polluted every day this ‘Dirty Water’ rule remains in effect.”

“Too many communities in our country are repeated victims of polluters who flaunt our nation’s environmental laws due to a lack of enforcement,” Chair Napolitano said. “This report is timely, as the new administration seeks to deliver environmental justice for regions plagued by contamination, hold polluters accountable, and prevent future bad actors.”

Additional Background:

In April 2020, DeFazio, Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Betty McCollum (D-MN) wrote to the Trump EPA demanding transparency and additional changes to the agency’s guidance allowing the waiving enforcement of environmental laws at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full letter here.

In September 2019, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing on the Trump administration’s priorities and policy initiatives under the Clean Water Act. During that hearing, DeFazio questioned David Ross, then-Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Water, on the concerning drop in enforcement. Learn more about that hearing here.

In October 2018, DeFazio and Napolitano sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an investigation into the Trump EPA’s implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act, including its oversight of State programs. Read the full letter here.

In June 2018, DeFazio and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA with specific concerns about the unlawful slowing of enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Read more here.