From The Hill:
Under President Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined far fewer polluters for breaking emissions rules than the Obama administration.
Numbers released Thursday by the EPA in its annual enforcement report revealed that polluters were fined a total of $1.6 billion in penalties in fiscal year 2017 — about a fifth of the $5.7 billion EPA penalties collected the year prior, under President Obama. ...
In its press release about the report, the EPA highlighted the year as one for "deterring noncompliance."
“A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes,” said Susan Bodine head of the agency’s compliance office in the EPA statement.
“In fiscal year 2017, we focused on expediting site cleanup, deterring noncompliance, and returning facilities to compliance with the law, while respecting the cooperative federalism structure of our nation’s environmental laws.”
In other words, we ignored a lot of bad stuff, throwing the job to the states who also don't care about enforcing pollution control laws (e.g, North Carolina):
Environmental enforcement experts pushed back on the EPA's statement, however, saying the report's numbers show the opposite. ...
Steven Chester, who served from 2011 to 2014 as deputy assistant administrator in EPA’s compliance office, said that a drop in litigation and enforcement at the agency could mean lasting consequences for the environment. ...
An EPA employee currently working in the office of compliance told The Hill, under the condition of anonymity, that in the days leading up to the release of the report the administration worried about how to spin the dipping enforcement numbers as a positive. ...
In other words, what sort of lame excuse can be provide ...
Days before the EPA released its annual enforcement report, Bodine told her staff in an email not to be concerned with the public’s perception of the enforcement record.
“Some outside entities that are unfamiliar with the true nature of our work here in OECA and have tried to measure the worth of what you do simply through the dollar amount of federal penalties and the number of federal case initiations,” she wrote in an office-wide email reviewed by The Hill.
“However it is also important for EPA to help and, if necessary, persuade states to take actions to address violations and informal actions can bring about a return to compliance more quickly.”
Susan Bodine's appointment was confirmed on December 7. From US News and World Report:
Echoing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Bodine said in her confirmation hearing in June 2017 that she believes in "cooperative federalism" – making it states' responsibility to uphold environmental mandates.
Unfunded EPA mandates don't have a happy history (from ALEC):
A major reason that state funding has dried up in recent years is that EPA now oftentimes promulgates new regulations (of which they may have dubious statutory authority) with Congress not agreeing to provide additional funding to the states to implement the programs. However, even if Congress does provide additional funding for implementation, there is no guarantee these monies make their way to the states. In FY2015, for instance, EPA raided $581 million from the states’ Clean Water and Drinking Water Revolving funds to increase spending on other projects, including fighting climate change.
EPA has also proven to be careless in how they evaluate the costs they impose on the states. Existing law – the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) – requires federal agencies to “assess the effects on state and local governments before imposing mandates of $100 million or more per year without providing federal funding to implement the mandate.” EPA gets around this requirement by suggesting that since they are willing and able to impose a federal implementation plan on states that opt against developing a state plan of their own, such regulations are not considered to be “federal mandates.”
Passing the monitoring and enforcement burden onto the states is one way to reduce monitoring and enforcement activities and, therefore, allow business firms and consumers to pollute when they are not supposed to.