- Toxic air pollution, involving nearly 200 chemicals deemed so harmful to health Congress sought to bring emissions under control 21 years ago, persists in hundreds of U.S. communities.
- About 1,600 polluters around the country are classified by the U.S. EPA as “high priority violators” of the Clean Air Act — sites regulators believe need urgent attention.
- Regulators take months and sometimes years to enforce anti-pollution rules. About 400 facilities are on an internal EPA “watch list” that includes serious or chronic Clean Air Act violators that have not been subject to timely enforcement.
- Regulators largely rely on an honor system easily manipulated by polluters, which report their own emissions.
Criminal cases usually don’t target big polluters. Relatively few cases have led to penalties since 1990 – and only a handful involving air toxics.