Enforcement and Compliance Annual Results for Fiscal Year 2023
In Fiscal Year 2023, EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance programs focused on addressing 21st century environmental challenges and reinvigorating EPA’s enforcement and compliance program. EPA promoted fair and robust enforcement and compliance assurance programs to hold polluters accountable, protect public health and the environment in communities across America, and ensure that companies who meet their legal obligations are not at a competitive disadvantage with those who break the law.
To help meet the existential threat of climate change, EPA issued a that directs all EPA enforcement and compliance offices to address climate change, including with criminal, civil, federal facilities, and cleanup enforcement actions. For the first time ever, the climate strategy requires EPA to pursue climate mitigation, adaptation, and resiliency whenever possible in its enforcement actions and compliance assurance programs.
EPA accelerated efforts to promote environmental justice (EJ) through increased inspections and enforcement in communities already overburdened by pollution. In EPA’s Strategic Plan, EPA committed to increasing the percentage of onsite inspections in EJ communities from 30% to 55% by FY 2026. In FY 2023, EPA surpassed that goal three years ahead of schedule, achieving 60% of onsite inspections in communities overburdened with pollution. EPA utilized the full range of compliance monitoring and enforcement tools, including inspections, technical assistance supported by advanced technologies, and early actions and innovative remedies to ensure high levels of compliance with environmental laws.
EPA dramatically increased its enforcement and compliance resources during 2023, after a decade of budget cuts reduced EPA enforcement by approximately 950 positions and hampered EPA’s ability to protect communities from the harmful effects of pollution. EPA is in the process of hiring more than 300 new employees—inspectors, attorneys, and technical staff—that will enable EPA to rebuild our inspector cadre and significantly increase our enforcement and compliance presence throughout the United States.
Already, EPA is producing results from its efforts to revitalize its enforcement and compliance assurance programs:
- More on-site inspections to protect communities from harmful pollution since before the pandemic, supplemented by more selective use of off-site compliance tools developed during the pandemic.
- More civil case conclusions since 2018, which eliminated an estimated 1.21 billion pounds of pollutants, and required violators to pay over $708 million in penalties, fines, and restitution, a 57% over FY 2022.
- More Superfund enforcement instruments since 2017, with 80% of those Superfund actions in EJ communities; and
- More criminal investigations opened than in any year since 2015 (with the exception of FY 2020 when EPA confronted a surge of Covid-related fraud), resulting in a 70% percent increase over FY 2022.
EPA expects to increase its efforts to address 21st century environmental challenges and to strengthen its enforcement programs in FY 2024 and beyond. But in FY 2023, EPA sent an unmistakable message to the regulated community that EPA will work with its state partners to ensure that polluters are held accountable and that everyone living in the United States can breathe clean air and drink safe water.
Working for Your Community
EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance programs focus on identifying and addressing noncompliance and contaminated sites that adversely impact the health of American communities through vigorous civil, criminal, and cleanup enforcement.
Providing safe drinking water is a partnership that involves EPA, the states, tribes, public water systems and their operators, and certified laboratories that conduct analyses of drinking water samples collected by public water systems.
Exposure to lead in environmental media — soil, water, air, and in paint — can cause serious health problems.
EPA focuses its enforcement and compliance resources on the most serious environmental violations by developing and implementing national program priorities called National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives.
Fulfilling Our Mission
Ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations to address violations that pose the greatest threat to human health and the environment in a fair and equitable manner to ensure a level playing field for all regulated businesses.
FY 2023 Enforcement and Compliance accomplishments include the following highlights:
Over 60% of on-site inspections were at facilities affecting communities with potential EJ concerns, exceeding the 50% goal set for this year and 40% above FY 2022.
Concluded a total of 1,791 civil settlements, over 150 more than in FY 2022. In FY 2023, 55% of the FY 2023 cases address facilities in communities with potential EJ concerns, the highest percentage since FY 2014.
Broadened Task Force outreach and coordination efforts which led to 199 criminal cases opened in FY 2023, an increase of 70% over FY 2022 (117 cases opened).
Obtained approximately $1.1 billion from Superfund cleanup and cost recovery settlement agreements and recovery of past and future costs. This brought the total value of the Agency’s Superfund enforcement actions, since inception of the program in 1980, to $50.3 billion to address contamination at more than 3,900 Superfund sites across the country.
Trained over 200 personnel from our federal partners, including Customs, Homeland Security, US Attorney’s offices, and other enforcement agencies which directly led to Custom and Border Patrol officers identifying violative shipments and subsequently contacting EPA, who initiated criminal investigations.
Developed a new international civil and criminal enforcement program with Mexico, Canada, and Tribal Nations targeted the illegal trade of chemicals, ozone depleting substances, engines, hazardous waste, and pollution from ships. Over 2600 enforcement actions included analysis of more than 600 samples (86% violations), over 500 border and 160 vessel inspections (50% violations), and training over 195 inspectors. More than 40 cases used enhanced targeting and new test equipment. International toxics release information exchanges were improved. Additionally, multi-lingual training was developed and deployed for penalties and imports.