William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


Criminal prosecution has always existed in a political context. Democratic and Republican presidents have treated environmental regulation very differently over time and this may have a profound effect on how the criminal enforcement of air pollution laws has proceeded in the United States both historically and in the future. There was enough of a bipartisan consensus to allow the institutionalization of resources for the policing and prosecution of air pollution crimes that began in the 1980s and lasted until the early 1990s, where criminal investigators and specialized prosecutors were hired; institutionalized places for these operations to specialize and collaborate were established; as were criminal provisions in major environmental statutes that all allowed for a criminal enforcement apparatus to institutionalize and become a standard part of the environmental enforcement regime. By the time Bill Clinton was in office, any bipartisanship over environmental enforcement began to break down and this process continued through the Trump Administration, which was openly hostile towards the agency more so than any Republican president since Reagan. How enforcement evolved across different partisan regimes and whether Democrats offered significantly expanded political, administrative, and budgetary support compared to Republicans, should influence criminal enforcement outcomes in CAA [Clean Air Act] criminal prosecutions, but these effects are mostly unknown. By analyzing all CAA criminal prosecutions stemming from EPA criminal investigations from 1983 to 2021, we are able to explore outcomes across time and presidents and examine these broader patterns to address such important questions.

This abstract has been taken from the author's introduction.