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Photo: Vitaliy Holovin/Corbis via Getty images

The Environmental Protection Agency hit a 30-year low last year in the number of pollution cases it referred for criminal prosecution, Justice Department data shows.

Details: The 166 cases referred for prosecution in the last fiscal year is the lowest number since 1988, when Ronald Reagan was president, according to the AP. The data was obtained by the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

  • Compare: In 2011, the EPA assessed that "typically" the criminal investigative division "carries approximately 800 open criminal investigations on its national docket."
  • Criminal referrals have been on a downward trend since Bill Clinton’s administration, and even more so under President Trump.

Between the lines: Congress requires the Criminal Investigative Division at the EPA to employ at least 200 special agents, but there are only about 140 agents currently active at the agency, PEER learned through a federal records request.

What’s next: Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who was acting head of the EPA for most of the last fiscal year, faces a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Criminal referrals have already slowed in fiscal year 2019 under Wheeler, according to DOJ figures.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
4 hours ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

4 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.