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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Environmental Crime - Frequently Asked Questions

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What is an environmental crime?

An environmental crime is a type of environmental violation for which Congress has provided criminal sanctions (prison time and/or criminal fines) because individuals or companies have consciously decided to violate the environmental law or have acted so negligently that their behavior has resulted in a serious violation. Because of the severity of criminal sanctions, criminal prosecution is not employed lightly by EPA. It is also possible that the same conduct could be dealt with through a combination of civil/administrative action against the company while the individuals within the company who are responsible for the violations could be prosecuted criminally and sentenced to prison for their actions.

EPA and the American public are rightly concerned about our environment. EPA largely depends upon self monitoring and reporting by industries and individuals engaged in regulated activities in order to perform its mandate to protect human health and the environment. There are those though who choose to provide false or misleading information to EPA or go so far as to make up or alter laboratory findings. Some even choose to ignore the regulations all together. This type of behavior undermines EPA’s ability to protect human health and the environment. These individuals are candidates for criminal investigation and prosecution.

EPA is also very concerned about finding individuals and companies who, often just to save money or make money, choose to illegally discard wastes onto the ground or discharge pollutants into the water. Others turn off air pollution devices when the regulators are not looking or turn a blind eye to the actions of their subordinates that could cause harm to human health and the environment. Again, these individuals are candidates for criminal investigation and prosecution.

Lastly, there are many types of criminal violations in addition to the ones noted above, but not all environmental violations have criminal sanctions.

What is CID?

EPA has a group of federal law enforcement officers, attorneys, scientists, and support personnel who are the Criminal Investigation Division and who are dedicated to investigating environmental crime. The Special Agents of EPA CID were given full federal law enforcement authority and are therefore able to pursue all criminal violations of federal law.

CID also works closely with other federal investigative and regulatory agencies and with state and local investigative and regulatory agencies. There are numerous environmental crimes task forces in operation throughout Region 9. CID investigates crimes in the Pacific Island Territories.

What if I dumped the waste, turned the valve, or doctored the numbers?

There are a number of factors considered in determining your criminal exposure. Your position in the company, whether you were directed or encouraged to do so, and your ability to influence the decisions are some of these factors. The truthfulness and completeness of the information you provide in support of the criminal investigation are also taken into consideration. CID seeks to punish the individuals responsible for the crime at the highest levels of management. Employees who carry out the illegal activity (dump the hazardous waste, illegally remove the asbestos from the building) often become victims of the crime themselves. These individuals typically face less severe charges than their superiors, and often face no charges at all. The decision whether or not to charge someone with a crime is ultimately made by the prosecutor.

If you committed the crime on your own or if you instructed your employees to do so, if you were a manager or owner and knew what was happening, or should have known because of your position in the company, then you will likely find yourself charged with a crime.

Whatever your involvement with the violation, you are better served by contacting CID before they contact you.

Will my identity be protected if I call CID?

CID is a professional federal law enforcement agency and will make every effort to protect your identity. There may come a time when your identity has to be divulged, but that will not happen without your knowledge and consent. Also, CID considers witness tampering and intimidation to be extremely serious violations. When contacting CID, you can choose to remain anonymous, but understand that anonymous tips are very difficult to pursue.

Can I receive payment for information?

The short answer is that it is possible to receive payment for information, but in reality, it is very difficult. Some of the environmental statutes, such as the Rivers and Harbors Act, do provide for payment.

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