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State EPA steps up enforcement in wake of critical federal report

The Associated Press
5/15/02 8:04 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency improved its enforcement of anti-pollution laws after activists sought to have it stripped of its authority.

In a report issued on Tuesday, the agency said it collected $2.2 million in fines in 2001. That's slightly less than the year before but double the amount collected in 1999.

Enforcement orders filed by the agency also are on the rise after declining during the late 1990s. The state EPA issued 146 administrative actions against polluters last year, more than the 103 issued in 2000 but still well below the 266 issued in 1991.

Under pressure from environmentalists and federal regulators, the agency also eliminated most of its backlog of citizen complaints, some of which were more than seven years old.

State EPA officials made enforcement a priority in response to an unprecedented review of their efforts by the U.S. EPA.

Four environmental groups -- Ohio Citizen Action, the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, Rivers Unlimited and the Sierra Club -- petitioned the federal agency to strip Ohio of its authority to enforce laws governing air, water and hazardous waste.

After a yearlong investigation, federal officials largely absolved Ohio of allegations that it runs shoddy water and hazardous-waste programs.

A draft report prepared by the federal agency demanded changes in Ohio's clean-air programs, noting a decline since 1995 in inspections, investigations and penalties collected from air polluters.

It also criticized the state agency for "unduly relying" on statements by industries it regulates.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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