So far, the Trump administration's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been lighter on the pocketbooks of polluters than previous administrations, collecting 60 percent less in civil penalties than previous administrations had recovered from environmental violators on average by the end of July in their first year after taking office.
Federal records reviewed by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) also show a significant drop in the number of environmental enforcement lawsuits filed against companies for breaking pollution control laws, compared to comparable periods in the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations.
From President Trump's first day in office through the end of July, the U.S. Department of Justice collected a total of $12 million in civil penalties as part of 26 civil lawsuits filed against companies for breaking pollution control laws. This was less than the $36 million in penalties in 34 cases in Obama's first January through July; $30 million in 31 cases under the same period during George W. Bush's administration; and $25 million in 45 cases during Clinton's first half year.
"President Trump campaigned on a promise of 'law and order,' but apparently law enforcement for big polluters is not what he had in mind," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of civil enforcement at EPA. "The early returns show fewer cases with smaller penalties for violations of environmental law. If this drop-off in environmental enforcement continues, it will leave more people breathing more air pollution or swimming in waterways with more waste."
This analysis is based on EIP's examination of federal consent decrees in EPA civil enforcement cases referred to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution that resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Air Act and other environmental laws. It does not include Superfund cases, which may be examined by EIP in a future report.
Reduced environmental enforcement harms public health because pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of fine soot-like particles known to cause premature deaths from heart attacks and lung disease.
Pollution reduction information is not available for all lawsuits. But according to available case information and formulas used by EPA, the pollution reductions from five civil environmental cases filed by the Trump administration so far will prevent at least 22 premature deaths per year. This is less than the estimated 229 premature deaths annually avoided by the emission reductions required in eight cases filed during President Obama's first six months, and 618 deaths per year avoided by four cases at this point in George W. Bush's administration.
Estimated Annual Emissions Reductions and Premature Deaths Avoided
Note: For civil cases lodged from first day in office through July 31 of first year.
The data for the Trump administration's record so far is just a snapshot and trends vary over time. Large future cases could potentially shift these results. "The actions that Justice Department and EPA take over the next year will indicate whether the disappointing results so far are all we can expect," Schaeffer said.
The numbers so far show that President Trump's Justice Department has collected about 60 percent less in penalties than polluters had paid by on average this time in the first year of Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The cases this year are smaller, requiring much less spending on cleanup, and resulting in fewer measurable reductions in pollutants that end up in our air or water.
Below is a chart comparing the number of civil lawsuits and penalties during President Trump's first six months compared to the same period of time for the three previous presidents.
Total Environmental Cases Lodged (Civil) and Penalties Paid
Note: For civil cases lodged from first day in office through July 31 of first year. Premature deaths calculating using EPA's estimation methods.
The disparity between administrations is more significant when inflation is taken into account. For example, the $25 million in civil penalties paid from January through July of 1993, during the Clinton administration, is equivalent to more than $42 million in 2017 dollars (compared to the $12 million collected during a comparable time period in the Trump administration).
Beyond civil penalties, EPA also estimates the value of another outcome of environmental lawsuits: "injunctive relief." This means how much money violators will spend to install and maintain the pollution control equipment needed to reduce emissions and comply with environmental standards. This equipment includes scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide from smokestacks or treatment systems that decontaminate wastewater before it is released to a river. EPA has been making these injunctive relief cost estimates for the last two decades.
The value of court-approved "injunctive relief" has fallen to $197 million during President Trump's first January through July, compared to $1.3 billion under the same period of time at the beginning of President Obama's first term, and $710 million under the first half year of George W. Bush's first term, federal records show.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records show that administrator Scott Pruitt spent almost half of his days this spring in Oklahoma or on trips that included stops in his home state. The airfare for these trips cost more than $12,000, with most of that covering travel to and from the administrator's home state.
The records, obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through a Freedom of Information Act request, show a total of 48 out of 92 days in March, April and May in which Pruitt was traveling, and 43 of those travel days were spent in Oklahoma or heading to or from Pruitt's home state.
These travel costs were for Pruitt himself, and do not include the price of travel and lodging for his staff or for his security detail of up to 10 guards, which is at least twice as large as the security force provided to his predecessor as EPA administrator.
"These travel records show that administrator Pruitt is more focused on cultivating his relationships with industry and conservative political organizations in his home state of Oklahoma than he is on protecting the environment and the public health for the rest of America," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and former Director of Civil Enforcement at EPA.
Although former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy also frequently travelled back to her home in Boston, she paid for those flights, according to a report in The New York Times. By contrast, taxpayers paid for the more than $12,000 in airfare for Pruitt, according to EPA records.
The Times story included an interview with a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma, Keith Gaddie, who suggested Pruitt was probably going home for personal reasons, because Pruitt's daughter recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma and he also has a son who is several years younger.
"If this is true, it raises questions about whether Mr. Pruitt improperly used federal funding for personal travel and business, and whether he should write a check to reimburse taxpayers for these expenses," said Schaeffer.
Among Pruitt's activities during his trips to Oklahoma, according to travel documents and Pruitt's calendar listings obtained by EIP, were:
- A March 23-27 trip to Oklahoma, including an event during which the EPA administrator received an award from the Oklahoma Well Strippers Association.
- An April 13-19 trip to Oklahoma, Chicago and Missouri, including an event in Oklahoma during which Pruitt was the keynote speaker at a meeting of a pro-industry lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Committee.
- A May 12-15 trip to Oklahoma and Colorado that included a meeting in Colorado with Pruitt at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
- A May 19-22 trip to Oklahoma that included a tour by Pruitt of the Brainerd Chemical Company.
The travel vouchers also indicate the administrator had other unspecified "meetings" while in Oklahoma.
Excessive travel to one's home, on the taxpayer's dime, has raised ethical red flags in the past with the EPA Inspector General's Office.
On Sept. 22, 2015, EPA's Office of Inspector General criticized a former EPA regional administrator for scheduling 51 out of 88 trips over a 27 month period, or 58 percent of the total, to locations near his residence in Orange County, California. The Inspector General questioned whether, "some of this travel was essential to performance of the agency," after comparing these records to the travel habits of other regional administrators.
Administrator Pruitt's records show that trips to Oklahoma accounted for 43 out of his 48 travel days this spring, or 90 percent of that total.
"It seems fair to ask whether all of administrator Pruitt's trips—and the money they cost taxpayers—are essential to performance of the agency," said Schaeffer. "It is also fair to ask how much additional money is spent to fly his entourage of security guards back and forth to his home state if that is where the administrator is going to spend half his time."
EIP's summary of the administrator's travel is based on a review of the travel vouchers and schedule of meetings we obtained in response to a May 18 Freedom of Information Act request to EPA. Our estimate of airfare costs based on travel vouchers excludes the amounts that Pruitt appeared to have covered on several occasions. The estimate of travel days includes days spent travelling to or from Oklahoma or locations in other states for events or meetings.
On July 18, EPA sent via email an electronic file containing records of Pruitt's travel vouchers through May 31.
The cost of airfare indicated on the chart reflects the amount paid by the US government for Pruitt's airfare only. It does not include any per diem nor does it include airfare or travel costs for other staff. If the records of travel vouchers indicate that Mr. Pruitt paid his own way for any segment of his travel, it has been reflected in the chart. Otherwise, total airfare includes all portions of multi-city trips, not just the segments to/from Oklahoma.
What should you know about the up-and-coming company Blue Raven Solar?
Considering a solar energy system from Blue Raven Solar? Before you sign a contract, you may want to know more about the company's services, major pros and cons, and what Blue Raven Solar reviews say about the quality of service you can expect from this installer.
In this article, we'll discuss all that and more to help you figure out if Blue Raven Solar is the right choice for your home.
|Blue Raven Solar Fast Facts|
|Service Areas||17 states including CO, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MO, NC, NV, OH, OR, SC, TX, UT, VA|
|Service Types||Solar panel system installations and monitoring|
|Types of Panels Sold||Monocrystalline black-on-black panels between 315 and 335 watts from brands including Trina and Canadian Solar|
|Backup Battery Options||Not yet offered|
|Certifications||North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) technicians|
|Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating||A+ with accreditation|
The best way to assess whether solar is a practical option is to get quotes from a local installer. To receive a free quote from Blue Raven Solar, or a similar provider in your area, fill out the 30-second form below.
Blue Raven Solar Overview
Founded in 2014, this young solar power provider boasts a stellar reputation anchored in exceptional customer service and an innovative solar financing model. Its mission is to make homeowners' lives better by reducing their utility bills, increasing their reliance on clean and abundant renewable energy and providing a world-class customer experience through a reliable sales process and speedy, high-quality installations.
Though Blue Raven Solar may not be a household name like some other top solar companies, the growing provider has expanded its service area to an impressive 17 states and has no plans of slowing. Solar giant SunPower recently acquired Blue Raven Solar for $165 million, a testament to its growth and potential in the residential solar market. As of now, it does not appear that Blue Raven's operations will be affected by the acquisition.
Blue Raven Solar Services and Installation
Blue Raven Solar installs residential solar panels with top-of-the-line products and inverters. It sells exclusively monocrystalline Tier 3 black-on-black solar panels (between 315 and 335 watts) to provide a seamless look on your rooftop. Brands used in Blue Raven installations typically include Trina and Canadian Solar, which are both known for their reliable, relatively affordable solar panels. Although Blue Raven Solar does not yet offer solar battery installations, it plans to soon.
Blue Raven strives to provide a world class customer experience through a reliable sales process, flexible solar financing and a speedy, high-quality installation. Here's what you can expect the solar panel installation process to look like with Blue Raven Solar.
- Receive a free quote by providing some basic information like your address, average monthly energy bill and credit score.
- If deemed eligible, Blue Raven Solar will conduct a site visit at your home to examine the type of roof you have as well as its quality and electrical status.
- After the site visit, Blue Raven will work with you to draw up a maximum efficiency plan for your roof. It's at this stage that your solar consultant will be able to answer any questions you may have about the solar panel installation process, solar tax credits, state solar incentives and financing options.
- Once all your questions have been answered and you feel confident in your decision, Blue Raven Solar will draw up your solar contract and apply for city permits. Blue Raven will handle all the paperwork, but expect this process to take a few weeks.
- After applying for city permits, Blue Raven Solar will get in touch with your utility company to enroll you in its net metering program, if applicable. Incentives like net metering are important to understand prior to signing a contract.
- Once all permits, agreements and plans are in order, Blue Raven Solar will install your solar energy system. This can be carried out in as little as one day depending on the complexity of your system.
- Before you can turn the system on, you will need to pass inspections carried out by the city and the local utility companies. These are usually separate inspections and processes will vary depending on your location. Blue Raven will handle the logistics.
Solar Panel Warranty
Blue Raven Solar provides its customers with a 25-year product warranty, which will cover issues related to the manufacturing of the solar panels themselves. Routine maintenance, such as solar panel cleaning or snow removal, is the responsibility of the homeowner.
Like most solar panel installers, Blue Raven also provides a 10-year workmanship warranty that covers homeowners against faulty workmanship or errors by the installation team.
The company prides itself on customer satisfaction — and thousands of positive Blue Raven Solar reviews can tell you it's not just an advertising tactic. One nice perk of going with this company is that it will cover the cost to repair any solar system that is underperforming its expected rate. Note that this production guarantee only lasts for two years, so be sure to monitor your system closely after installation.
Blue Raven Solar Costs and Financing
The cost of solar is difficult to estimate by provider, as it can vary so widely depending on your state, roof and energy needs. However, Blue Raven sets itself apart from most competitors with its exclusive solar financing plan, BluePower+.
Financing Options Through Blue Raven Solar
BluePower+ is a financing option available only to Blue Raven Solar customers. Unlike most other solar loans, BluePower+ offers the unique advantages of a $0-upfront option for the first 18 months of a system's life, as well as a fixed repayment rate and the ability to pay the loan off at any time without penalty. The company claims this attractive financing option (when coupled with the federal tax credit) allows customers to pay off more than 33% of the overall cost of a system within the first 18 months after installation. This adjustment quickly accelerates the solar panel payback period for Blue Raven customers.
Blue Raven Solar does not offer solar leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs).
Blue Raven Solar Reviews
As Blue Raven Solar positions itself as a leader in customer experience and satisfaction, it's no surprise that it has received some standout feedback. Let's take a look at a few examples of positive and negative Blue Raven Solar reviews.
Positive Blue Raven Solar Reviews
Most satisfied customers post reviews similar to that below, praising Blue Raven's customer service:
"Blue Raven did an excellent job under-promising and over-delivering, contrary to most competitors. Install was completed quickly, correctly, and all inspections were tailored to my schedule. My power bill is completely gone, and my property value has increased at the same time. Strongly recommend it."
– Justin via Google Reviews
"Blue Raven Solar made this so easy. They got the permits, contacted my HOA, found a great roof company for my new roof and then installed my solar panels. The solar install team was so nice, on time, efficient and professional. If you are looking for solar, use Blue Raven Solar!"
– Cindy via BBB
Negative Blue Raven Solar Reviews
As with any young company, Blue Raven Solar has experienced some growing pains. Most negative Blue Raven Solar reviews involve difficulties in communication after a sale.
"Terrible experience. We have a $20,000+ solar package with this company that hasn't worked correctly for over a year. (All the while I've been paying for it.) Every time that we schedule to have it taken care of, the company finds some excuse to put it off."
– Joshua via BBB
Blue Raven Solar strives for exemplary service, so it has personally replied to most if not all of its negative feedback online. Much of Blue Raven Solar's growth is credited to its referral program, which serves as a testament to the overall satisfaction of its customers.
Final Thoughts on Blue Raven Solar
Blue Raven Solar's innovative financing model, exceptional customer experience, quality warranty and A+ rating from the BBB make it a safe and reliable choice for solar customers. Tackling financing and solar loan strategies can be a tough challenge for a new solar adopter, but Blue Raven sets itself apart from the competition with its straightforward financial solution that provides immediate returns.
Expanding with the speed and success of Blue Raven Solar would be a challenge for most solar providers, but Blue Raven is addressing these challenges head-on. The provider has delivered on customer expectations during a rapid stage of growth and is expanding offerings of backup batteries to provide further customization for its customers.
|Blue Raven Solar Pros||Blue Raven Solar Cons|
|Innovative financing options||No backup battery options|
|Exceptional service and customer satisfaction||Little customization|
|Energy monitoring service available||No solar lease or PPA option available|
|Quickly growing service areas|
Based on our research, we recommend Blue Raven Solar to customers who are new to solar, don't need customization or don't have an advanced understanding of the technicalities behind a solar panel installation. Its straightforward financing, trusted sales staff and customer service make the process simple and easy to understand for a customer new to solar. Though an impressive young company, Blue Raven Solar may not provide the best services for those seeking a specific brand of panel, backup battery options or more custom features.
Solar Energy Provider Comparison
Unless you're handy enough to complete a DIY solar project, most homeowners considering solar will have to find a local installer to complete the design, permitting and installation of solar panels. But which is the right choice for your home?
Let's compare Blue Raven Solar to some of the other name-brand solar companies in the U.S: Sunrun and SunPower. Overall, Blue Raven Solar excels in customer satisfaction relative to its competitors, earning it a rank among the top national providers.
|Blue Raven Solar||Sunpower||Sunrun|
|Services Offered||Solar panel installation, monitoring, maintenance||Solar panel installation, battery installation, monitoring||Solar panel installation, battery installation, monitoring, maintenance|
|Service Areas||CO, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MO, NC, NV, OH, OR, SC, TX, UT, VA||All 50 States||AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, MD, MA, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.|
|Payment Options||Cash, in-house financing plans||Cash, loan, lease||Cash, loan, lease, PPA|
FAQ: Blue Raven Solar
How does Blue Raven Solar work?
Blue Raven Solar installs residential solar panels with top-of-the-line products and inverters across 17 states as of 2021. Complete with design, permitting, installation and custom financing of PV panels, Blue Solar offers comprehensive services for those looking for a solar panel array.
What kind of company is Blue Raven?
Blue Raven Solar is a regional residential solar panel provider and installer. It was recently acquired by national provider SunPower.
How long has Blue Raven Solar been around?
Blue Raven Solar was founded in 2014, which makes its service area of 17 states all the more impressive. Within seven years, Blue Raven Solar's staff has expanded from three to over 1,400 employees.
Is Blue Raven Solar a good place to work?
In 2021, Blue Raven Solar ranked in the top 20 Best Places to Work in Glassdoor's annual Employees' Choice Awards. Coupled with a 4.3 out of 5-star rating on Glassdoor, the award proves Blue Raven Solar is a good choice if employee satisfaction is an important factor in your employment decision.
Where is Blue Raven Solar available?
Blue Raven Solar offers service in 17 states including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.