Hannah R. Miles


Overfiling and Under-Enforcement

Hannah R. Miles

Environmental regulation is accomplished through a system of cooperative federalism—the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets nationwide standards for various pollutants, but the responsibility for granting permits, inspecting facilities, and punishing violations is generally delegated to state agencies. This power-sharing arrangement has frequently created tensions between the federal and state environmental agencies. Overfiling is one of the most contentious of these tensions; it occurs when the federal government files an enforcement action against a polluter for a violation of a federal environmental statute after the delegated state agency has reached a settlement with the same polluter for the same violation. While overfiling occurs very rarely, it is a critical component of the cooperative federalism arrangement, and in this Note, I propose that it should occur more frequently in order to ensure that state agencies are not using low enforcement to de facto create a more hospitable landscape for polluters and damage public health and the environment.