Assessing State Enforcement

Americans have a right to know when their environmental laws are broken, what actions the government has taken to stop those violations, and whether those who broke the law have paid for their misconduct and corrected the problem.

We obtained enforcement data from five Midwestern states including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and found that, in general, basic data on state actions that address significant violations of federal environmental law are not readily available to the public or to state agency personnel. In many cases, state personnel and citizens can only obtain the information through laborious, file-by-file hand searches. Often these files are scattered among state offices and can only be accessed by citizens through time-consuming Freedom of Information Act or comparable state “sunshine” law requests. In addition, some states charge fees for public information that extend well beyond the means of the average citizen or nonprofit organization.