Environmental Crimes (Corporations/Businesses)
The common conception of liability arising from violations of environmental regulation brings to mind civil penalties such as finds or mandates or restrictions regarding certain practices. In certain serious cases organizations may incur criminal liability for violations of environment regulation.
Charges stemming from environmental regulatory violations vary based on the severity of the violation and the environmental and human impact of the event. Most environmental regulations contain provisions, which establish criminal liability for certain conduct.
Criminal schemes related to violations of environmental regulations often arise from not only the act of violating these regulations, nut also attempts to conceal or cover up alleged malfeasance.
In the event of a violation of environmental regulations which may bring criminal liability, operators directly responsible for the violation can be held criminally liable and in some cases responsible corporate officers may be held liable in cases where it can be shown that corporate officers endorsed violations or were willfully negligent.
New York’s environmental regulations are contained in the Environmental Conservation Law http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/[email protected]+&LIST=LAW+&BROWSER=BROWSER+&TOKEN=40736126+&TARGET=VIEW
Federal Environmental Regulation is administered through the EPA under a variety of laws and executive orders found at http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations/laws-and-executive-orders#majorlaws
The EPA under its regulatory authority may refer certain egregious violation of environmental regulations to the Department of Justice for prosecution. For example penalties can include, under the Federal Clean Water Act violators may be imprisoned up to three years knowing violations, and up to one year for negligent violations. Criminal liability extended not only to operators, but also to "responsible corporate officers." The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which regulates the handling and disposal of hazardous waste lists criminal acts which carry a penalty of up to $50,000 per day and up to five years in jail such as:
• Transporting waste to a nonpermitted facility.
• Treating, storing, or disposing of waste without a permit or in violation of a permit condition or interim status standard.
• Omitting significant information form, or making false statement in a label, manifest, report, permit, or interim status standard.
• Generating, storing, treating, or disposing of hazardous waste without complying with RCRA’s record keeping and reporting requirements.
• Transporting waste without a manifest.
• Exporting a waste without the consent of the receiving country.
The seventh criminal act imposes a penalty of up to $250,000 or 15 years in prison for an individual, or a $1 million fine for a corporation. This act is:
• Knowing the transportation, treatment, storage, disposal, or export of any hazardous waste can place a person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (the Superfund law) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (also known as SARA Title III) impose criminal penalties for failure to report certain toxic releases.
At the state level, The New York Environmental Conservation Law, for example, imposes criminal penalties for certain violations of the water pollution regulations of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Defending against criminal liability for violations of environmental law often involve establishing that the violation was not conducted intentionally or rebutting charges that the discharge of toxins in the environment where not concealed from regulators.
Generally violations of New York environmental laws are also violations of the relevant Federal environmental regulation.