1997 - 2002:
Results of citizens petition
challenging Ohio EPA's enforcement record
In 1997, Ohio environmental groups began a petition process
to the U.S. EPA challenging the effectiveness of Ohio EPA's implementation
and enforcement of the nation's cornerstone environmental laws: the
Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our solid and hazardous waste
law (Resource Conservation Recovery Act). The filing of the petition
was followed by the submission of 6,692 public comments by Ohioans whose
quality of life had been compromised by Ohio EPA's failure to safeguard
our communities from industrial and agricultural pollution.
The petition proved to be an effective tool, bringing to light hundreds of violations by both Ohio EPA and polluters. U.S. EPA Region 5 Administrator Thomas V. Skinner noted the following in a letter to our attorney, David Altman: "...Ohio EPA has taken steps in each program that should benefit its implementation of those programs... U.S. EPA has also followed up on many of the facility-specific concerns raised by the petitioners and commenters. Your involvement on behalf of your clients has highlighted the importance of these programs and the U.S. EPA recognizes your commitment to protect human health and the environment in Ohio."
The five year petition process is now complete, and it has yielded extraordinary benefits to Ohio and its residents. The petition process produced more change than we might have expected to win from 15 or 20 lawsuits. In addition, U.S. EPA began to enforce our environmental laws against major violators such as AK Steel. The U.S. EPA filed civil complaints against facilities for violations of air, water and hazardous waste regulations, ordered cleanups, leveled millions of dollars in penalties, and intensified inspections, environmental sampling and monitoring at some suspect facilities.
These U.S. EPA actions, their investigation, and their reporting should result in direct environmental improvement as well as increased compliance with environmental laws here in Ohio. But the U.S. EPA's final report is not an endpoint. We will continue to work with citizens throughout Ohio to reroute Ohio EPA's programs onto this new track.
The following is a summary of key changes and the pledged improvements made by Ohio EPA in response to concerns raised in the petition.To improve inspections, the Ohio EPA