About Us

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that advocates for effective enforcement of environmental laws. Comprised of former EPA enforcement attorneys, public interest lawyers, analysts, investigators, and community organizers, EIP has three goals:

  1. To illustrate through objective facts and figures how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and harms public health;
  2. To hold federal and state agencies, as well as individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental laws; and
  3. To help local communities obtain the protections of environmental laws.

We act as a watchdog because we have to. State and federal agencies charged with protecting the environment often are squeezed by limited resources and political interference from well-funded lobbyists hired by the industries they are required to regulate. We help level the playing field by giving communities the legal and technical resources they need to claim their rights under environmental laws.

Political influence should play no role when the government decides whether to enforce laws which keep cancer-causing benzene out of the lungs of children, for example, or deadly coal soot particles out of the bloodstreams of the elderly.

We do this by advocating for fair enforcement of environmental laws and regulations; writing and distributing reports and data; taking legal actions against big polluters and government agencies, when necessary; and by teaching communities how to participate in the public process regarding important state and federal environmental decisions.

Our Mission

EIP is dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt’s idea that our laws should be enforced in the public’s interest “without fear or favor.” We believe that all people – rich or poor, no matter where they live – deserve a healthy environment in which to work, play, and raise their children.

Integrity is our middle name

We understand that details are everything, and EIP has a hard-earned reputation for careful attention to both law and fact. We always look for environmental improvements that make economic sense in the long run. Our backgrounds in law, engineering, public health, government, economics, and environmental science help us to see the full picture. In fact, our work has been cited in Congressional hearings and debates, in reports by the U.S. General Accountability Office, and in frequent news articles.

A Message from our Executive Director

ericschaefferAt the heart of our nation’s environmental laws are promises that have stood the test of time and proved strong enough to confront new challenges.

These promises include the right of citizens to breathe air without risking asthma attacks, heart disease, or cancer.  Americans, rich and poor, have a right to water that is clean enough to drink, or to swim or fish in.  The Supreme Court has ruled that EPA must regulate global warming pollution.

A far-sighted Congress gave ordinary citizens the power to enforce environmental rules when bureaucracies stumble or polluters flout the law.  But it takes legal and technical know-how to exercise that power, especially when big agencies or well-connected polluters are on the other side of the table.  That’s where the Environmental Integrity Project comes in.

We work to make the government hear the voices of the people they are supposed to protect when writing rules or issuing permits.  And we take action against power companies, refineries, factory farms, and other industries for violating laws that protect our health and the quality of our air or water.

Eric Schaeffer
Executive Director

Our History

The Environmental Integrity Project was founded in 2002 by Eric Schaeffer, who resigned his position as director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s office of civil enforcement in protest when the Bush White House clearly interfered with Clean Air Act efforts to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants.

In his resignation letter to EPA Administrator Christine Whitman, Schaeffer noted that “Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican and our greatest environmental President, said, ‘Compliance with the law is demanded as a right, not asked as a favor.’ By showing that powerful utility interests are not exempt from that principle, you will prove to EPA’s staff that their faith in the Agency’s mission is not in vain.”

The issue that he was frustrated about was not a trivial one. In the three years leading up to that date, EPA had filed lawsuits against nine utilities for expanding coal-fired power plants without obtaining permits or installing air pollution control devices required by law. The plants released enough smog-forming pollutants and soot-like particles to cause nearly 11,000 premature deaths per year from heart attacks and lung disease.

Determined to fight back against the kind of interference that jeopardizes public health in a very real, quantifiable way, Schaeffer and a fellow EPA attorney formed a new nonprofit organization, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), which for the last decade and a half has been dedicated to the principal that politics should never get in the way of compliance with and enforcement of environmental laws.

EIP opened offices in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas and attracted a team of attorneys, data analysts, and others. With the support of the Rockefeller Family Fund and dozens of other donors, we have taken legal action through the years to stop big polluters, and to conduct investigations and write incisive, data-driven reports that have pushed both federal and state governments to tighten regulations and better protect public health.

Here are a few examples of EIP’s accomplishments:

    • March 2016: After legal action by EIP and south Baltimore residents opposed to the construction of America’s biggest trash-burning incinerator, the Maryland Department of the Environment nullified the permit for the proposed Energy Answers plant in Fairfield.
    • September 2015: In response to a lawsuit by EIP and allies, EPA issued regulations that will require coal-fired power plants across the U.S. to reduce by about 90 percent the toxic metals in the wastewater they pipe into rivers, streams and lakes.
    • April 2014: EIP’s legal pressure on the owners of the largest ash waste pond in the U.S., the leaky Little Blue Run Impoundment in western Pennsylvania, forced the state to order its closure and a $169 million cleanup.
    • January, 2013: GenOn, a power company originally known as Mirant and which owned three leaky coal ash waste landfills in Maryland, signed a consent decree agreeing to clean up the widespread water pollution problems and pay a $2 million fine after legal action by EIP and allies.
    • December, 2013: In an innovative settlement that significantly reduced air pollution in Corpus Christi, Koch Industries’ Flint Hills Resources agreed to cap and monitor greenhouse gas emissions and cut sulfur dioxide and other pollutants that would have been released from an expansion of an oil refinery.
    • February, 2013: The developers of a proposed 1,200 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Matagorda County, Texas, dropped their plans to proceed after EIP and other environmentalists objected to its permit because of substantial increases of air and water pollution.
    • May 2012: A Texas judge rejected the construction permit for a proposed power plant, the Las Brisas Energy Center in Corpus Christi, that EIP and allies opposed because it would add excessive amounts of air pollution and cause asthma attacks and other health problems.
    • May 2012:  In response to a permit challenge by EIP and others, EPA announced a settlement with BP that requires the company to spend more than $300 million to reduce more than 4,000 tons of air pollution annually from its Whiting refinery in Indiana.
    • December, 2011:  The Southwestern Electric Power Company agreed to install 400 megawatts of wind turbines as part of a settlement that EIP and several other environmental groups reached in a lawsuit over a dirty coal-fired power plant in southwest Arkansas.
    • July 2006:  The owners of the Hatfield Ferry coal-burning power plant in southwest Pennsylvania agree to install an air pollution control device called a “scrubber” to reduce its sulfur dioxide emissions by 95 percent after legal action by EIP and allies.