Polluting industries are getting off easy under the Bush administration, according to U.S. EPA data released yesterday by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). In the two years since President Bush took office, civil penalties for breaking environmental laws dropped by almost 50 percent, to $55 million, while criminal penalties dropped by more than one-third, to $62 million. During that same time, the EPA has also gotten rid of 210 positions, or about 7 percent of the enforcement staff, and on-site inspections have declined as well. Dingell said the numbers represented “an extremely disturbing trend toward weaker enforcement,” but the EPA countered that it has forced companies to spend more on pollution cleanup in the last two years (roughly $8.4 million) than during the final three of the Clinton administration (just under $7 million). Meanwhile, the EPA announced yesterday that it will ask Congress for $503 million to enforce environmental laws during fiscal year 2004, a $21 million increase over the request for fiscal year 2003.
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