The Public Health Aspects of Environmental Enforcement
Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental & Public Health Law, Vol. 4, 2010
72 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2010 Last revised: 3 Feb 2013
Date Written: December 3, 2010
Pollution is a public health problem, and hence enforcement of environmental statutes such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act serve fundamental public health goals as well as improving environmental quality. Moreover, public health benefits can provide politically cognizant benefits for environmental protection that balance the costs of environmental regulation and compliance.
Thus, it is worth examining the extent to which the EPA considers the public health in its environmental enforcement priorities and decisions. Focusing on the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, this Article: (1) reviews those statutes’ connections to public health protection; (2) outlines the statutory connections between public health considerations and environmental enforcement; (3) examines EPA’s enforcement priorities and guidance; and (4) discusses EPA’s presentation of its own enforcement effectiveness over the last decade.
This Article concludes that public health considerations do play a significant role in environmental enforcement policies and decisionmaking. However, EPA’s commitment to presenting the public health benefits of its enforcement actions has varied considerably over the last decade. With the release of its FY2009 enforcement assessment, however, EPA has both expanded its analysis of the connection between environmental pollution enforcement and public health benefits and created new tools to enhance the transparency of these benefits to the affected public.
Keywords: Public Health, Environmental Health, Enforcement, Pollution Control, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Discretion
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