Environmental Justice and Enforcement
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND ENFORCEMENT
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington enforces federal laws to protect environmental quality, human health, and wildlife in all communities within the district. In coordination with components of the Justice Department, the United States Attorney’s Office will hold violators accountable for their actions, prioritizing cases that will reduce environmental harms to the health of historically underserved, overburdened and marginalized communities.
The district’s Environmental Justice Coordinators will lead efforts to enforce both criminal and civil environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and hazardous waste laws. An intentional decision to violate these laws may be a federal crime. For example, intentionally discharging pollutants into a river without a permit, or bypassing a required pollution control device, is a criminal act that carries the possibility of incarceration and monetary fines.
The district’s Environmental Justice Coordinators also will lead efforts to remedy environmental violations and contaminations by pursuing actions under the civil rights laws, worker safety and consumer protection statutes, and the False Claims Act. For example, a federal contractor who violates a contractual provision mandating the proper disposal of hazardous waste may be subject to liability under the False Claims Act; a landlord who leases a home without disclosing known information about lead-based paint may violate federal lead disclosure rules.
Other examples of civil or criminal environmental misconduct include:
- Air emissions of toxic pollutants resulting from inadequate or nonexistent pollution control
- Illegal asbestos removals that expose and create health risks for workers and the public
- Illegal discharges into waters or sewer systems that threaten public safety and cause damage to our water infrastructure
- Illegal handling, transportation, and disposal of hazardous wastes and pesticides
- Oil spills or other incidents that compromise the fishing rights or practices of indigenous or disadvantaged communities
- False statements to the EPA or other regulatory agencies that threaten the integrity of environmental protection programs
In May 2022, the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, in coordination with the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, and with input from other DOJ components, federal agencies, and environmental justice advocates, issued its Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy, located here. Deployment of the Justice Department’s Strategy relies upon meaningful engagement and transparency with impacted communities regarding environmental justice issues, efforts, and results. The United States Attorney’s Office encourages the public to report suspected environmental violations within the district. Reports should be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency.