Lawsuits against polluters decline under Bush administration

In the first three years of the Bush administration, the number of civil lawsuits filed by the federal government against polluters declined by 75 percent compared to the last three years of the Clinton administration, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. Eric Shaeffer, who quit the U.S. EPA almost three years ago to protest lax enforcement and now leads the group, said, “If you are a big energy company, you are basically on holiday from enforcement.” EIP’s report comes on the heels of a similar report from the EPA’s inspector general, which concluded that the Bush administration has “seriously hampered” enforcement efforts. But top officials at the agency called both reports misleading, saying that the number of lawsuits is only part of the picture. The agency has focused on settling lawsuits already filed and implementing emission-trading programs, they said. The idea that filing lawsuits is in and of itself beneficial to the environment is a “fundamentally flawed premise,” said EPA’s Tom Skinner.