Deep Dive Episode 100 – The Limits of EPA Authority: Supplemental Environmental Projects
The Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice recently announced a policy that the Division would no longer agree to Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in settlement agreements or judicial consent decrees resolving violations of environmental laws. As defined by EPA, a SEP is an environmentally beneficial project or activity that is not required by law, but that a defendant agrees to undertake as part of the settlement of an enforcement action. Under EPA’s SEPs policy, the agency (through the Division) will seek a lesser civil monetary penalty in settling a civil enforcement action than what it would otherwise seek in the settlement in exchange for a defendant’s voluntary commitment to perform a SEP. Because SEPs purposefully trade civil monetary penalties payable to the U.S. Treasury for projects selected or approved by EPA that Congress either has not approved or had no occasion to consider, do SEPs violate the Miscellaneous Receipts Act and other laws intended to preserve Congress’ constitutional power of the purse?
Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Federalist Society’s Environmental Law & Property Rights Practice Group