Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), delivered remarks at the American Bar Association’s National Environmental Enforcement Conference on December 14, 2021. He provided insight into what DOJ plans to prioritize in environmental enforcement, centered on criminal enforcement, climate change, and environmental justice.
Kim emphasized that the purpose of enforcement is to ensure that businesses are properly incentivized to comply with the law through deterrence and to provide a level playing field, while protecting public health and the environment. He noted that DOJ has prioritized fighting corporate crime and is revising applicable polices, so ENRD will consider pursuing potential environmental and non-environmental crimes, as well as a business’s environmental and non-environmental track record in prosecution decisions.
Kim focused on methods of sector-wide enforcement, citing the Petroleum Refinery Initiative that involved settlements covering 112 refineries in 37 states since 2000. Kim also expressed an interest in more penetrating identification of all involved parties within a business, as well as in the full supply chain, where relevant. This focus could be especially impactful for importers of chemicals, pesticides, or wood products.
With these various tools in mind, Kim cited climate change and environmental justice as the two highest priority issues. For climate change, he indicated greater enforcement for air emissions from petrochemical plants and from facilities with refrigeration systems. For environmental justice, he provided a general assurance that ENRD is paying greater attention to potential violations in communities of color and low-income communities that may be disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards and harms.
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