Environment and Natural Resources Division Announces 2016 One of its Most Successful Years in History

Wed Feb 15th, On Environmental Law, by

The Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) issued a press release on January 13, 2017, along with the publication of its accomplishments in 2016, documenting one of the most successful years in its history.  The ENRD achieved record successes in environmental enforcement, natural resource damages, criminal penalties, and Lacey Act trafficking cases.  The Department worked to restore the Gulf following the Deepwater Horizon release, prosecuted Volkswagen in a major Clean Air Act fraud and resolved many issues between the United States and American Indian tribes.

The ENRD is responsible for enforcing federal civil and criminal pollution-control laws against individuals and entities that violate the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.  California environmental litigation lawyers may find themselves in litigation against the ENRD.  The ENRD also defends environmental challenges to EPA regulations and programs, which is monitored by our California environmental regulatory lawyers.  ENRD also represents the United States in actions involving natural resources and public lands, acquiring real property, bringing and defending cases under the wildlife protection statutes, and litigating cases concerning the resources and rights of Indian tribes and their members.  Our California environmental natural resource lawyers are experienced in dealing with ENRD in natural resource damages matters.

The press release identified extraordinary events that occurred in 2016.  In April 2016, ENRD settled with BP in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation for over $20 billion, which was the largest Clean Water Act civil penalty and the largest recovery of damages for injuries to natural resources, as well as the largest in the history of federal law enforcement for a single defendant.  In June and December 2016, the ENRD finalized two settlements with Volkswagen for civil Clean Air Act violations involving the use of devices designed to defeat vehicle emissions tests on over 500,000 vehicles sold in the United States.  Pursuant to these settlements, VW will spend over $15 billion to buyback vehicles, modify emissions control systems, fund air pollution reduction projects, and invest in green technology. Third, the ENRD successfully litigated over 790 cases and handled nearly 7,000 cases, matters, and appeals in 2016.  ENRD achieved over $14 billion in civil and criminal fines, penalties, and costs recovered.

The ENRD also prosecuted shipping companies and crew for the intentional discharges of pollutants from ocean-going vessels in U.S. waters, with criminal totaling more than $363 million in fines and more than 32 years of confinement.  In December 2016, ENRD prosecuted Princess Cruise Lines Ltd obtaining guilty pleas for seven felony charges resulting in a $40 million penalty.

ENRD’s other work in 2016 included: (1) handling of agency land acquisitions to obtain those lands at the fair market price, (2) promoting the use of renewable energy to foster energy independence through solar projects on public lands and prosecuting renewable fuel fraud, (3) prosecuting illegal trade in wildlife and timber that is decimating many species throughout the world, (4) prosecuting multi-state dog fighting, (5) advocating for environmental justice, and (6) defending tribal sovereignty, treaty obligations, and the rights of Indian tribes, and resolving long-standing disputes with tribes.

To read more about the ENRD’s work over the past year, you can read the Accomplishments Report here.  

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