Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, announced today that she will be leaving the Department of Justice on June 7, 2013.
“Over the last four years, Ignacia Moreno has been a powerful champion for the mission of the Environment and Natural Resources Division,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Under her leadership, the division has achieved extraordinary results on behalf of the American people – obtaining record-setting penalties against those responsible for the tragic Deepwater Horizon oil spill, successfully defending EPA’s historic greenhouse gas rules, negotiating landmark settlements with Indian tribes to resolve decades-long disputes over the management of trust resources and advancing the goals of environmental justice to protect America’s most vulnerable communities. Although I wish her all the best as she takes the next steps in her already remarkable career, I will miss Ignacia’s expertise and sound judgment. And I will always be grateful for her unwavering dedication to and outstanding service on behalf of the American people.”
“Serving in the administration of President Barack Obama and under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder has been a tremendous honor,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno. “I am grateful for the outstanding work of the division’s talented and dedicated public servants and the steadfast support of the department’s leadership. Together, we have vigorously enforced and defended the nation’s environmental laws for the benefit of all Americans, promoted responsible stewardship of our nation’s natural resources, protected tribal sovereignty, treaty rights and natural resources, and found creative solutions to complex problems that had previously defied resolution. I believe that the division’s work will benefit the American people for years to come.”
In 2009, President Obama nominated Moreno to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. She was confirmed by a unanimous vote of 93 to 0 in the U.S. Senate on Nov. 5, 2009. She had previously served in the Clinton administration from 1994 to 2001 as a special assistant, counsel and principal counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Holding Accountable Those Responsible for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire destroyed the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico and triggered a massive oil spill. Eleven people aboard the rig tragically lost their lives. Since then, Assistant Attorney General Moreno’s top enforcement priority has been to bring to justice those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Under her leadership, in December 2010, the United States brought a civil action in the Eastern District of Louisiana against BP, Anadarko, MOEX and Transocean for civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and a declaration of liability for natural resources damages under the Oil Pollution Act. The first phase trial on liability has recently concluded in New Orleans. Other key milestones have been achieved in the litigation. On June 18, 2012, the court approved a settlement under which MOEX agreed to pay $70 million in civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and to spend $20 million on projects that will preserve and protect habitat and resources in the Gulf States. Under a settlement approved by the court on Feb. 19, 2013, Transocean will implement enhanced safety measures in its drilling operations and pay a $1 billion civil penalty—the largest environmental civil penalty in history.
Record-Setting Enforcement Results
During Assistant Attorney General Moreno’s tenure, the division has achieved record recoveries from parties responsible for violating the nation’s environmental laws. Since 2009, the division has secured more than $29 billion in corrective measures through court orders and settlements. The division also has obtained nearly $3.4 billion in civil and stipulated penalties, cost recoveries, natural resource damages, and other civil monetary relief, including more than $1.4 billion recovered for the Superfund. During that time period, the division prosecuted 192 criminal cases against 358 defendants, and obtained a total of 155 years in confinement and almost $256 million in criminal fines, restitution, community service funds and special assessments. The division’s enforcement efforts have achieved significant reductions in emissions and discharges of harmful pollutants into the nation’s air, land and water.
Landmark Decision on Greenhouse Gas Regulations
Under Assistant Attorney General Moreno’s leadership, the division successfully defended the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) historic rulemakings under the Clean Air Act designed to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change. In June 2012, in one of the most significant environmental decisions of the past decade, a unanimous panel of the D.C. Circuit Court in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA upheld EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.
Successful Defense of the Administration’s Domestic Energy Agenda
Since 2009, the division has defended the administration’s efforts to safely and responsibly develop domestic energy sources. Under Assistant Attorney General Moreno’s leadership, the division has successfully defended dozens of challenges to permits and rights-of-way issued by federal land managers to promote the development of renewable energy projects on public lands, including solar, wind and electric power transmission projects located in California, Delaware, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Tennessee and Vermont.
Historic Results to Address Tribal Claims and to Protect Tribal Rights and Resources
Assistant Attorney General Moreno has been steadfast in strengthening the United States’ government-to-government relationship with Native American tribes and resolving longstanding disputes between the tribes and the United States. She has made it a priority to protect tribal sovereignty, safeguard tribal lands and resources, and honor tribal treaty rights through affirmative litigation. She led the development of the department’s Eagle Feathers Policy to clarify and expand the longstanding department practice of not prosecuting members of federally recognized tribes for possessing or using eagle feathers or other protected bird parts for religious or cultural purposes. In addition, Assistant Attorney General Moreno led the division’s efforts to resolve decades-long and costly litigation brought by more than 100 tribes against the United States relating to the government’s management of trust funds and trust resources. During her tenure, the United States has settled cases with 69 tribes, and has agreed to pay about $1.7 billion to resolve the tribes’ claims in a fair and reasonable manner.
Significant Progress in Advancing the Goals of Environmental Justice
During her tenure, Assistant Attorney General Moreno has been fully committed to achieving the goals of environmental justice. She has traveled throughout the United States to inner cities, Indian reservations, the Gulf States, the southwest border, Appalachia, and rural America, and has observed first-hand that many communities still suffer disproportionately from the burdens of pollution. The division has furthered the goals of environmental justice by ensuring that all communities enjoy the benefit of a fair and even-handed application of the law and have a meaningful opportunity for input into the consideration of appropriate remedies. Under Assistant Attorney General Moreno’s leadership, environmental justice considerations have become a fully integrated part of the resolution of the cases handled by the division.
Division Ranked One of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government
During each year of Assistant Attorney General Moreno’s tenure, the Environment and Natural Resources Division has not only performed great work, it has won recognition as a great place to work. In the annual survey conducted by the Partnership for the Public Service, the division has been ranked one of the top-five best places to work in the entire federal government in each of the past three years—including two #1 rankings. The division also has scored among the top federal agency subcomponents for effective leadership, empowerment, fairness, teamwork and strategic management. Assistant Attorney General Moreno has made it a priority to promote diversity in the workplace and a better quality of life for all employees.
Assistant Attorney General Moreno was born in Cartagena, Colombia, and immigrated with her family to the United States as a child. After receiving her law degree from New York University in 1990, she joined the law firm of Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C., and worked in the firm’s environmental and litigation practice groups. In 1994, President Clinton appointed Moreno to the Department of Justice, where she led significant environmental enforcement initiatives and expanded the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s international program. In 2001, she joined the law firm of Spriggs & Hollingsworth in Washington, D.C., where she was of counsel and then a partner, specializing in environmental and mass tort litigation. In 2006, she assumed the position of counsel, corporate environmental programs at the General Electric Company, where she worked until her confirmation as Assistant Attorney General in 2009. Throughout her career, Assistant Attorney General Moreno has been strongly committed to public service, and has served pro bono as general counsel of the Hispanic National Bar Association and president of the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia. She also has held leadership positions with the American Bar Association, the District of Columbia Bar, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and the Center for International Environmental Law.