Environmental Crimes

Violations of federal environmental laws can result not only in civil fines but also in felony criminal convictions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other Federal and State agencies are more and more often pursuing criminal charges against both business entities and the individuals employed by them. Many people are criminally charged for an environmental offense without knowledge or intent. This is because unlike most areas of criminal law, individuals can be prosecuted due to their negligent behavior—rather than intentional or knowing. 

Dozens of statutes define criminal environmental offenses and cover virtually all industries potentially having an impact on the environment. The most commonly used statutes are the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA); the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); the Clean Water Act (CWA); the Refuse Act; and the Clean Air Act (CAA). Further, States have passed their own versions of these laws and may bring criminal charges in conjunction with Federal charges.

Prosecutors have enormous discretion in whether or not to bring charges. Because of the government’s discretion in choosing between civil and criminal remedies, it is important to hire an experienced environmental criminal lawyer early. Paul Doyle can often persuade agencies and prosecutors to withhold criminal charges.

COMMON ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES:

·         Illegal logging

·         Illegal fishing

·         Air quality violations

·         Safety violations involving oil spills

·         Toxic or Hazardous waste disposal

·         Water contamination violations

·         Water drainage violations

·         Improper storage of chemicals

COMMON VIOLATION SCENARIOS:

Clean Air Act Scenario: The owner of office space solicits bids to old tiles from the building. Two bidders determine that the tiles contain dangerous asbestos fibers, and raise their bid to accommodate the costs of adhering to the  that, in doing the removal, they would be required to follow the federal standards that apply to asbestos removal. The third bidder proposes to save the owner money by removing the tiles without following the federal standards. The owner hires the third bidder for this reason and, so, the work is done without following the federal standards. The manager is criminally liable for a violation of the Clean Air Act.

Clean Water Act Scenario: A manager at a production company directs employees to bypass the facility's wastewater treatment unit in order to save money and avoid having to purchase the chemicals necessary to run the wastewater treatment unit. The company then sends untreated wastewater directly to the sewer system in violation of the permit issued by the municipal sewer authority. The manager is criminally liable for a violation of the Clean Water Act.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Scenario: In order to save money for proper treatment of its hazardous waste, the owner of a company places the hazardous waste into its dumpster for disposal at a local, municipal landfill that is not authorized to receive hazardous waste The owner is criminally liable for a violation of RCRA.

If you are currently being investigated or charged with an environmental violation—including only a civil violation—contact Paul Doyle today. Paul Doyle has worked with companies under EPA investigation that only initially include civil liabilities and knows how to avoid the threat of possible criminal charges. Paul Doyle is experienced in defending environmental crimes and will be able to make sense of the many complex environmental statutes as well as guide you through the civil and regulatory investigative procedures that accompany a criminal environmental investigation. Paul Doyle will fight to protect you or your company from charges from the onset of the investigation, and, if necessary, to the end of trial.