The Clinton administration, which sometimes has been at odds with environmentalists, has moved to beef up its enforcement of environmental-protection laws.
Carol Browner, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced last week that she will create a centralized Office of Enforcement within the agency. The office had been abolished in June 1981 by Reagan appointee Anne Gorsuch Burford, and its functions dispersed among many EPA offices.
Environmentalists argue that Ms. Burford's move hampered the agency's pursuit of polluters. In many cases, they say, the same agency employees have been responsible for promulgating and enforcing environmental regulations. In other cases, different EPA divisions have sent conflicting signals to companies accused of violations.
By centralizing enforcement functions - which currently employ about 900 EPA workers - Ms. Browner hopes to launch a renewed assault on corporate polluters. "This is a clear signal," says Steve Hermann, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement. "We want to have a strong, tight program that goes quickly after the worst polluters. …