EPA Levied a Record $252 Million in Fines in 2012

By Elizabeth Harrington | January 10, 2013 | 11:20 AM EST

Stacks, pipes and storage tanks stretch along the Houston Ship Channel. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Environmental Protection Agency collected $252 million in civil and criminal penalties in fiscal year 2012 – an all-time record amount, and more than twice the $168 million assessed in fiscal 2011, according to the agency’s annual enforcement results.

The agency touted the fiscal 2012 fines and other enforcement actions in a Dec. 17 news release, calling them the result of “vigorous enforcement.”

“Enforcement plays a vital role in protecting communities from harmful pollution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“We are using vigorous enforcement, as well as innovations in monitoring and transparency, to reduce pollution violations, protect and empower communities and focus on the environmental problems that matter most,” she said.

The EPA said the $252 million in penalties was “assessed to deter pollution.”  And it says 6.6 billion pounds of pollution and hazardous waste were “reduced, eliminated, properly disposed of or treated” as a result of its enforcement actions.

In addition to the fines, the EPA directed various environmental offenders to spend $44 million on remedial projects, such as installing pollution controls. That's up from an estimated $25 million in supplemental environmental projects in fiscal 2011.

Most of EPA’s enforcement actions stem from violations of the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, but the agency also enforces thousands of lesser-known rules and regulations.

For example, in the past year, school bus contractors have been fined more than $400,000 for “excessive idling,” and landlords have been penalized more than $40,000 for failing to hand out “EPA-approved” pamphlets on the dangers of lead-based paint.

Among its accomplishments in fiscal 2012, the EPA also touted its advancement of “environmental justice,” which includes “fenceline monitors” to detect pollution that may drift into nearby neighborhoods. The EPA requires companies to make the data available online so the public can track the emissions.