Key findings

  • 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.