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Press Release

On 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division Celebrates Achievements in Environmental Law

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) celebrated its latest accomplishments and reflected on half a century of the division’s impact on environmental and natural resource law in the United States.  

“This report covers my first year as the Assistant Attorney General for the Division, and I deeply appreciate this opportunity to serve the American people and support President Trump’s ambitious agenda,” said Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Assistant Attorney General for ENRD. “I continue to believe that environmental law must always be guided by the bedrock principles enshrined in our Constitution. These principles have guided our nation for almost a quarter of a millennium, and they serve as a guidepost for everything we do in ENRD.”

“More American families are breathing clean air and drinking clean water due to the efforts of the Environment and Natural Resources Division,” said Claire McCusker Murray, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General.  “ENRD’s tremendous work is essential to the department’s mission of faithfully enforcing the law and defending the interests of the United States.”

In fiscal year 2019, the ENRD remained focused on several key objectives: vigorously enforcing pollution abatement and wildlife protection laws, particularly in cases of fraud or abuse; promoting energy independence and economic growth by defending the reduction of regulatory burdens and supporting infrastructure development; strengthening national security and border protection; promoting federalism; and protecting the public fisc.  ENRD worked on approximately 3,077 cases and matters, while maintaining a robust docket of over 6,110 active cases and matters. The division obtained over $858 million in civil and criminal fines, penalties, and costs recovered. The estimated value of federal injunctive relief obtained—including cleanup and pollution-prevention actions funded by private parties—exceeded $3.4 billion.

Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1970, over 20 million people participated in a wide variety of public gatherings as part of the nation’s first Earth Day. From coast to coast, the American people provided a powerful civic response to environmental degradation and a clear demand for broad national measures to protect the environment and conserve natural resources.

Over the next 10 years, Congress passed many of the foundational environmental and natural resources statutes of the modern era, including the Clean Air Act (1970), the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1972), the Coastal Zone Management Act (1972), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (1976), the National Forest Management Act (1976), the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Recovery Act (1976), the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (1977), and the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (1978).

Throughout this flurry of legislative activity, ENRD grew and adapted to enforce these new statutes and defend client agencies’ decisions under them.  This latest Accomplishments Report contains a special section on how over the last 50 years, ENRD’s diverse practice has played an essential role in shaping and defending the legislative and regulatory responses to pollution and conservation. The achievements described in the report continue to highlight ENRD’s efforts to advance environmental values since the first Earth Day in 1970.

Read more about ENRD history and accomplishments here.

Watch a Video about ENRD’s history since the first Earth Day here.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at

Updated April 22, 2020

Press Release Number: 20-396