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Protect. Save. Repeat. – Celebrating Earth Day

Department of Justice Celebrates 45th Anniversary of Earth DayCourtesy of John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division

In celebration of Earth Day, this morning I joined Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and volunteers from the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) and Washington Parks & People at Marvin Gaye Park in Washington, D.C.  The Community Greening Center in Marvin Gaye Park is a neighborhood-based nursery for plants and trees as well as an environmental education resource center. This year was also a very special occasion for Washington Parks and People as they marked their 25th anniversary.

These volunteers, who have been coming here each Earth Day for the past 12 years, have accomplished great things on a local scale, improving the quality of the environment and the quality of life for a historic neighborhood by planting trees, clearing debris from the park and nearby stream, and making other improvements to the Greening Center so it can become a center of community life.

On a national scale, the Justice Department’s ENRD staff was also responsible for reaching two major settlements that will benefit the health and environment of residents in different corners of the country.  Today, the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Colorado announced a settlement with Houston-based Noble Energy, Inc. resolving alleged Clean Air Act violations stemming from the company’s natural gas production activities in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, north of Denver, Colorado.  And in a settlement with ExxonMobil Pipeline Company and Mobil Pipe Line Company, the companies have agreed to pay $4.19 million in civil penalties, to implement a supplemental environmental project, and to take corrective measures to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and state environmental laws stemming from a 2013 crude oil spill from the Pegasus Pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas. 

Also as in previous years, the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division released its accomplishments report for the past fiscal year. It discusses the major enforcement and defensive cases, as well as other priorities of the Division over the last year. 

In the past year, the Division successfully litigated 926 cases and handled a total of 6,588 cases, matters, and appeals.  We recorded over $400 million in civil and criminal fines, penalties, and costs recovered.  The estimated value of federal injunctive relief – clean-up and pollution prevention actions funded by private parties – exceeded $6.2 billion.  ENRD also saved the taxpayers money, avoiding claims of over $2.0 billion.  The Division achieved a favorable outcome in 93 percent of cases, resulting in cleaner air, land, and water in the United States

Among our top priorities this year are: the continued litigation of all aspects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; enforcing and defending EPA’s rules and regulations promulgated under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gases and conventional pollutants; combating wildlife trafficking; promoting responsible energy development; protecting tribal sovereignty, tribal lands and resources, and tribal treaty rights, vigorously  litigating while maintain our commitment to integrity and  the rule of law.  In all of our work, we continue to pursue the goals of environmental justice by ensuring that all communities enjoy the benefit of a fair and even-handed application of the Nations’ environmental laws and affected communities have a meaningful opportunity for their voices to be heard in all appropriate instances

In January, I returned to ENRD as the Assistant Attorney General following my Senate confirmation.  I have had the honor and privilege of spending over two decades at the Department of Justice, first as Chief of the Environmental Enforcement Section and then the Division’s career Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and during that time, I have witnessed the extraordinary efforts of career public servants who work countless hours, representing the United States in federal courts across our great nation.  The division’s backbone is those career professionals who have dedicated their lives to public service: upholding our laws, improving the environment, protecting our natural resources, and assuring the health and safety of our citizens.

For more information about Washington Parks & People and Marvin Gaye Park, visit

Updated March 3, 2017