• The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    Author : White Collar Firm April 6, 2017

    The Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, has implemented regulations that have made a tangible difference in the air, water, and environmental quality in the country – despite what your personal feelings might be about it. President Obama promised to protect and expand the EPA, in an attempt to meet the goals set by the Paris Accord to address and retard the effects of climate change. President Trump has essentially wiped out the policies implemented under the Obama administration via an executive order. It ain’t easy being green, after all. It remains to be seen how effective this will be, and for the time being, the penalties for violating the EPA regulations are steep.

    Most of the EPA violations are based in civil law; however, there are criminal penalties that will be implemented against parties who wreak havoc on the environment in contravention of the law. Some significant cases have occurred in recent years, with criminal punishments levied against egregious violations. The Clean Water Act provides for criminal penalties, as seen in the Duke Energy Subsidiaries case. The companies admitted that they had discharged coal ash and coal ash wastewater into the surrounding rivers and tributaries. The parties received five years’ probation for two counts, fine $68 million, and ordered to pay an additional $34 million for various environmental projects in the surrounding areas of North Carolina and Virginia. This fine was one of the largest ever implemented under the Clean Water Act. A company and an individual also received criminal punishment under the Clean Water Act in Louisiana, when an oilfield employee pled guilty for dumping polluted water into the Gulf of Mexico, off the Louisiana Coast. However, you can see why environmental crimes continue to remain a significant issue for law enforcement: he was sentenced to one solid day in prison, a year of supervised release, and 200 hours of community service. The company paid $1.5 million in fines, but of course faced no jail time, as it is pretty hard to incarcerate a company.

    Under the Clean Air Act, two men were sentenced to ten years in prison for taking part in a scheme to generate fraudulent biodiesel fuel credits and exporting biodiesel without forfeiting credits to the United States. He was also ordered restitution of $6.3 million. By fraudulently producing biodiesel credits, they created more than $7 million in revenue, and keeping more than $34 million of credits to the United States. Therefore, it appears that in this country, the criminal punishment is far more serious when it comes to theft and fraud rather than dumping fuels into water systems.

    Enforcement under the EPA is a difficult task under the best of circumstances. With Mr. Trump’s new plan to gut the EPA, heavily reduce the number of employees, and remove hundreds of regulations, it seems inevitable that the minimal protections and remedies available against polluters will only diminish. It makes you wonder what kind of world this administration has chosen to leave behind for its children and grandchildren.

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