Jail for Polluters

Courts in the United States are getting tough on those convicted of environmental offences. In Fiscal Year 2010, the E.P.A.’s Criminal Enforcement Program achieved an 88% conviction rate with 198 nindividuals either pleading or being found guilty.  Individual criminal defendants were sentenced to a total of 72 years of jail-time. Of 289 cases prosecuted, 251 (87%) included charges against at least one individual defendant, as opposed to a business or corporation. The US Environmental Protection Agency states that “The charging of individuals, where warranted by the evidence, is important, because the possibility of being sentenced to jail for an environmental crime provides significant deterrent effect.”

In the last three weeks alone, three people have been sentenced to jail terms for their role in environmental offences:

  • The Chief Engineer of a ship was sentenced to six months in prison followed by two years supervised release for obstructing a Coast Guard inspection of a bypass hose that allowed the dumping of waste oil overboard, circumventing pollution prevention equipment required by law.
  • The Environmental, Health & Safety Manager of a major beverage bottling company was sentenced to four months in prison and ordered to do 100 hours of community service related to the environment and to give at least four talks to at least 100 other environmental managers explaining the circumstances leading to his incarceration. He had been convicted of falsifying reports to the municipality of the concentration of wastewater discharges from the plant where he worked.
  • The former owner and operator of a building in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act and the Clean Air Act’s asbestos work practice standards for his role as building owner and overseer of the work during the renovation of more than 10 floors of the building. He pleaded guilty to failing to remove all regulated material containing asbestos from the building before beginning the renovation project.

Announcements of the incarcerations, including the names of individuals and companies involved, are provided by the US Department of Justice at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/criminal/

A summary of 2010 criminal enforcement results is provided at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/endofyear/eoy2010/criminal/index.html

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