United States Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division

United States Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division

The Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) is a litigating component of the United States Department of Justice. ENRD’s mandate is to enforce civil and criminal environmental laws and programs protecting the health and environment of the United States, and to defend suits challenging those laws and programs.

The Division initiates and pursues legal action to enforce federal pollution abatement laws and obtain compliance with environmental protection and conservation statutes. ENRD also represents the United States in all matters concerning protection, use, and development of the nation’s natural resources and public lands. The Division defends suits challenging all of the foregoing laws, and fulfills the federal government’s responsibility to litigate on behalf of Native American tribes and individual Native Americans. The Division is also responsible for the acquisition of real property by eminent domain for the federal government, and brings and defends cases under wildlife protection laws. ENRD’s legal successes have reduced harmful discharges into the air, water, and land, enabled clean-up of contaminated waste sites, and ensured proper disposal of solid and hazardous waste.


The Environment and Natural Resources Division is overseen by an Assistant Attorney General, currently Ronald J. Tenpas, and four Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals. The Division divides itself into several sections, each of which has its own unique areas of expertise. A Section Chief heads each section, who is assisted by one or more Assistant Section Chiefs.

Appellate (Chief James C. Kilbourne): The Appellate Section's work involves cases arising under the more than 200 statutes for which the Division has litigation responsibility. Section attorneys brief and argue appeals in all thirteen federal circuit courts of appeals around the country, as well as in state courts of appeals and supreme courts. The Section handles appeals in all cases tried in the lower courts by any of the sections within the Division; it also oversees or directly handles appeals in cases within the Division's jurisdiction that were tried in the lower courts by U.S. Attorney Offices. The Section's responsibility also includes petitions for review filed directly in the courts of appeals in environmental or natural resource cases involving the Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Surface Transportation Board. The Section works closely with Justice's Office of the Solicitor General, making recommendations whether to appeal adverse district court decisions or to seek Supreme Court review of adverse appellate decisions. The Section writes draft briefs for the Solicitor General in Division cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Environmental Crimes (Chief Stacey Mitchell): The Environmental Crimes Section is responsible for prosecuting individuals and corporations that have violated laws designed to protect the environment. It is at the forefront in changing corporate and public awareness to recognize that environmental violations are serious infractions that transgress basic interests and values. The Section works closely with criminal investigators for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in dealing with violations of such statutes as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, more commonly known as Superfund), the Lacey Act, and the Endangered Species Act, among other statutes.

Environmental Defense (Chief Letitia Grishaw): The Environmental Defense Section represents the United States in complex civil litigation arising under a broad range of environmental statutes. EDS is the only section in the Environment Division that routinely handles cases in both federal circuit and district courts. EDS defends rules issued by EPA and other agencies under the pollution control laws, brings enforcement actions against those who destroy wetlands in violation of the Clean Water Act, and defends the United States against challenges to its cleanup and compliance actions at Superfund sites, federally-owned facilities and private sites.

Examples of the Section's work include: defending EPA's regulations governing permitting discharges from factory farms; its ambitious “Clean Air Interstate Rule” aimed at attaining air quality standards for ozone and fine particulate matter in the eastern half of the country; the Agency’s efforts to revamp the Clean Air Act; safety standards for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada; defending challenges to the United States' implementation of international treaties involving the elimination of chemical weapons; and prosecuting civil enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act that have protected hundreds of thousands of wetland acres and recovered millions of dollars in penalties.

Environmental Enforcement (Chief Bruce Gelber): The Environmental Enforcement Section is one of the largest litigating sections in the Department and includes nearly one-half of the Division's lawyers. The Section is responsible for bringing civil judicial actions under most federal laws enacted to protect public health and the environment from the adverse effects of pollution, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, RCRA and the Superfund law (CERCLA). It includes cases of national scope, such as cases against multiple members of an identified industry, to obtain broad compliance with the environmental laws. Through its enforcement of the Superfund law, the Section seeks to compel responsible parties either to clean up hazardous waste sites or to reimburse the United States for the cost of cleanup, thereby ensuring that they, and not the public, bear the burden of paying for cleanup. The Superfund law is also a basis of the Section's actions to recover damages for injury to natural resources that are under the trusteeship of federal agencies.

Executive Office (Executive Officer Bob Bruffy): The Executive Office provides management and administrative support to the Environment and Natural Resources Division, including financial management, human resources, automation, security, and litigation support.

Indian Resources (Chief Craig Alexander): The Indian Resources Section represents the United States in its trust capacity for Indian tribes and their members. These suits include establishing water rights, establishing and protecting hunting and fishing rights, collecting damages for trespass on Indian lands, and establishing reservation boundaries and rights to land. The Indian Resources Section also devotes approximately half of its efforts toward defending federal statutes, programs, and decisions intended to benefit Indians and Tribes. The litigation is of vital interest to the Indians and helps to fulfill an important responsibility of the federal government.

Land Acquisition (Chief Virginia Butler): The Land Acquisition Section is responsible for acquiring land through condemnation proceedings, for use by the Federal Government for purposes ranging from establishing public parks to creating missile sites. The Land Acquisition Section is also responsible for reviewing and approving title to lands acquired by direct purchase for the same purposes. The legal and factual issues involved are often complex and can include the power of the United States to condemn under specific acts of Congress, ascertainment of the market value of property, applicability of zoning regulations, and problems related to subdivisions, capitalization of income, and the admissibility of evidence.

Law and Policy Section (Chief Pauline Millius): The Law and Policy Section staff advises and assists the Assistant Attorney General on environmental legal and policy questions, particularly those that affect multiple sections in the Division. Working with the Office of Legislative Affairs, it coordinates the Division's response to legislative proposals and Congressional requests, prepares for appearances of Division witnesses before Congressional committees, and drafts legislative proposals in connection with the Division's work, for example, the implementation of litigation settlements. Other duties include responding to congressional and other correspondence, including FOIA requests as well as a myriad of citizens' requests, and serving as the Division's ethics officer and counselor, alternative dispute resolution counselor, and liaison with state and local governments. Attorneys in the Section also litigate amicus curiae cases, undertake other special litigation projects, and coordinate the Division's involvement in international legal matters.

Natural Resources (Chief Jack H. Haugrud): The Natural Resources Section, which consists of more than 65 lawyers working in five teams, manages litigation under a diverse and extensive group of more than eighty statutes and treaties out of Washington, D.C. and three field offices. The Section's docket includes cases in virtually every U.S. district court of the Nation, its territories and possessions, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and in state courts. The subject matters include federal land, resource and ecosystem management decisions challenged under a wide variety of federal environmental statutes and involving lands as large as the Forest Service's 191 million acre inventory to tracts as small as individual wildlife refuges; vital national security programs involving military preparedness, nuclear materials management, and weapons system research; billions of dollars in constitutional claims of Fifth Amendment takings covering a broad spectrum of federal regulatory and physical activities; Indian gaming and the United States' trust responsibility toward Tribes; a panoply of cultural resource matters including cases related to historic buildings, repatriation of ancient human remains or salvage of shipwrecks (even the R.M.S. Titanic); preserving federal water rights and prosecuting water rights adjudications; and ensuring proper mineral royalty payments to the Treasury. The Section's clients have included virtually every major Federal executive branch agency.

Wildlife and Marine Resources (Chief Jean Williams): The Wildlife and Marine Resources Section litigates civil cases under federal wildlife laws and laws concerning the protection of marine fish and mammals. Civil litigation, particularly under the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, often pits the needs of protected species against pressures for development by both the Federal Government and private enterprise.

External links

For additional information about the Environment and Natural Resources Division, [http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd please click here] .

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