After an action-packed tenure that included litigating the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Ignacia Moreno, the head of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, announced today she is stepping down June 7.
On her watch, the 490-lawyer division won a record-setting $29 billion in court orders and settlements. The division also scored nearly $3.4 billion in civil penalties and other relief, including more than $1.4 billion for the Superfund.
“Over the last four years, Ignacia Moreno has been a powerful champion for the mission of the Environment and Natural Resources Division,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a statement. “Under her leadership, the division has achieved extraordinary results on behalf of the American people.”
Moreno, who previously worked for General Electric Co. as of counsel for corporate environmental programs, was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate as assistant attorney general in November 2009.
Five months later, an explosion and fire destroyed the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and triggering a massive oil spill. From then on, according to DOJ, Moreno’s “top enforcement priority has been to bring to justice those responsible.” In December 2010, the government sued BP, Anadarko, MOEX and Transocean in New Orleans federal court, seeking civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and a declaration of liability for natural resources damages under the Oil Pollution Act.
In February, Transocean agreed to pay a $1 billion civil penalty—the largest environmental civil penalty in history. Other litigation is ongoing.
Lawyers in the division also scored a major win before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year, successfully defending the Environmental Protection Agency’s hotly contested rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
They’ve also been active on the criminal front, prosecuting 192 cases against 358 defendants and obtaining a total of 155 years in confinement plus almost $256 million in criminal fines.
At the same time, the division has been ranked one of the top-five best places to work in the entire federal government in each of the past three years—including two #1 rankings.
Moreno has not announced her future plans. A DOJ spokesman said she is “ready for new challenges and will be exploring a variety of opportunities over the summer.”
Before she worked at GE, Moreno was a partner at Spriggs & Hollingsworth in Washington. From 1994 to 2001, she held a senior position at the Environment and Natural Resources Division, leading enforcement efforts and expanding the division’s international program. She’s also served pro bono as general counsel of the Hispanic National Bar Association and president of the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia.
“I am grateful for the outstanding work of the division’s talented and dedicated public servants and the steadfast support of the department’s leadership,” Moreno said in a prepared statement. “Together, we have vigorously enforced and defended the nation’s environmental laws for the benefit of all Americans, promoted responsible stewardship of our nation’s natural resources, protected tribal sovereignty, treaty rights and natural resources, and found creative solutions to complex problems that had previously defied resolution.”