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Sidley Environmental and Energy brief Head of DOJ Environmental Division Announces Enforcement Priorities

Sidley Environmental and Energy brief Head of DOJ Environmental Division Announces Enforcement Priorities


Todd Kim, Assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), delivered Observationsat the American Bar Associations’ National Environmental Enforcement Conference, December 14, 2021. He gave insight into the DOJ’s priorities in environmental enforcement. These included criminal enforcement, climate change and environmental justice.

Kim stated that enforcement’s purpose was to incentivize businesses to comply with the law by deterrence and provide a level playing ground, while protecting the public health and the environment. He said that DOJ has given priority to fighting corporate crime and is revising the applicable polices. ENRD will be considering pursuing environmental and nonenvironmental crimes as well as a business’ environmental and/or non-environmental track records in prosecution decisions.

Kim focused on sector-wide enforcement methods, citing the Petroleum Refinery Initiative which involved settlements covering 112 refineries across 37 states since 2000. Kim expressed an interest in deeper identification of all parties in a business as well as the entire supply chain. This could be especially important for importers and distributors of pesticides and chemicals as well as wood products.

Kim noted that climate change and environmental injustice are the most important issues with these tools in mind. Kim indicated that he would enforce stricter regulations regarding air emissions from petrochemical facilities and from facilities equipped with refrigeration systems. For environmental justice, he gave a general assurance that ENRD is paying closer attention to potential violations in communities where people of color and those with low income may be disproportionately affected or exposed to environmental hazards and harms.

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