Ecology And Environment

Criminal Environmental Enforcement in the us



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Environmental devastation caused by industrial pollution has been around for many centuries. Industrial pollution was largely ignored the government, and perpetrators were never really dealt with in a legal perspective. However, since the start of the industrial revolution the issue of pollution by large companies or corporations has become a real problem. The parties responsible for industrial pollution have not been subjected to criminal prosecution; to greater extend this issue was pursued by private parties and organization in civil litigation. The first congressional demonstration of intent to criminalize pollution was The Rivers and Harbors Act in 1899, yet it took seven decades before any significant and considerable prosecutorial activity against environmental criminals would occur (Friedrichs, 2007).

According to David Friedrichs, new environmental movements began to exist in the 1960's and early 1970 are signalizing a shift from promoting exploitation of natural resources by industry to new standards in support of environmental protection. The United States government established the new Agency the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the myriad of new laws enacted during this period. One would think that the establishment of a governing body such as the EPA more aggressive litigation of industrial polluters would occur; but during the Nixon and Ford administration, only 25-recorded cases were prosecuted. During the Carter administration prosecution of industrial criminals increased and by 1985 approximately 50 cases per year were referred to the Depart of Justice (Friedrichs, 2007).

The EPA, however, was not immune to internal violation of the law; a discovery of corrupt transactions in 1983 between high-level EPA officials, were the Environmental Protection Agency colluded with Dow Chemical to hide its responsibility for dioxin contamination, created a political scandal. A congressional investigation by the Investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce revealed the scope of Dow Chemical's influence over the EPA, which eventually led to the dismissal of EPA Administrator Anne McGill Burford and 12 other officials (wonkroom website, 2008).

Friedrich states: Department of Justice prosecutions of environmental criminals had leveled off during the first Bush administration, whereas the Clinton administration necessitated a higher priority on pursuing environmental cases. In the final year of the Clinton administration, 236 cases of environmental crimes were referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution; ensuing $122 million in fines (Friedrichs, 2007).

Manufacturing, mining, utility, and other large corporations have violated, and shirked their responsibility, and commitment against the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 94 Stat. 2767, enacted by the Congress 1980, as amended, 42 U. S. C. 9601-9675, in response to the serious environmental and health risks posed by industrial pollution in the name of greed. Pollutants from industrial sources include Asbestos, Lead, Mercury, Chromium 6, Nitrates, Phosphates, Sulfur, Oils, and Petrochemicals (lovetoknow web site, 2009).

Regardless of small increases in prosecution, fines, as well as prison sentences for corporate executives one can all but notice the habitual hesitation to incarcerate environmental criminals or impose large fines on corporate environmental lawbreakers - most had not been fined more that 1 to 5 percent of the statutory maximum (Friedrichs, 2007).

Large corporations worldwide have been fighting implementations of new laws and stronger legislation for decades. For example, the Dow Chemical scandal clearly depicts the influence of large corporations of the EPA and congress members on Capitol Hill.

Chemical, mining, utility, and the auto industry, claim the economical impact of enforcing such laws would result in increase of price to the consumer because of the high cost of either removing industrial waste, or installing equipment to reduce such waste. The fall-out of industrial waste has affected the global society as a whole because of an increase of environmental induced illnesses such as cancer, birth defects, and asthma, allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders, cancer, chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and lupus (environmentalhealthconsultant web site, 2009).

Continued research on environmental pollution is vital to combat corporate and political corruption, and to ensure that environmental criminals are prosecuted to the full extend of the law.

Should the United States government and its agencies impose stricter environmental laws? What standards should government set and at what expense? What measures and actions should be taken to diminish, or eliminate corporate and political corruption in the environmental arena? What steps are imperative for the United States government to join the global fight on worldwide industrial pollution? Who will ensure that rules and procedures are followed correctly, and laws implemented, if the government cannot police itself?

In lieu of recent developments, and the introduction of new legislation concerning industrial pollution, continues research is important because the welfare of society is at risk.

While the American public is very receptive to environmental issues such as clean water, clean air, and the reduction of health risks, the political sphere is overcrowded with many competing interests. The environmental lobby has been unable to find more reliable means of influencing electoral politics for the benefit of its policy preferences.

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