Green Investigations Are Here: U.S. Department of Justice Turns Towards Environmental Enforcement Actions, Deprioritizes Compliance Assistance

man in handcuffs

Companies and individuals should expect more “vigorous enforcement,” with an emphasis on criminal enforcement.

January 10, 2022
Karen C. Bennett, R. Morgan Salisbury, Sean P. Shecter & Rose Quam-Wickham - Lewis Brisbois

Washington, D.C. (January 4, 2022) - Two high-ranking Department of Justice (DOJ) officials announced that the Biden Administration is prioritizing environmental regulatory enforcement over compliance assistance. Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), and Deborah Harris of the DOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section, indicated in mid-December 2021 that companies and individuals should expect more “vigorous enforcement,” with an emphasis on criminal enforcement. This new policy is in contrast to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA)'s previous emphasis on compliance and pollution mitigation instead of enforcement actions under the prior administration.

DOJ’s new policy of promoting enforcement actions is consistent with the Biden Administration’s overall efforts to prioritize environmental justice. In April 2021, as explained in a previous Lewis Brisbois Client Alert, OECA released two memoranda directing enforcement teams to consider a variety of tools to resolve enforcement actions, including increased inspections, restitution, and reparation for victims of environmental crimes and overstepping state regulators where necessary.

Reprinted courtesy of Karen C. Bennett, Lewis Brisbois, R. Morgan Salisbury, Lewis Brisbois, Sean P. Shecter, Lewis Brisbois and Rose Quam-Wickham, Lewis Brisbois
Ms. Bennett may be contacted at
Mr. Salisbury may be contacted at
Mr. Shecter may be contacted at
Ms. Quam-Wickham may be contacted at


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