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ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT SENDS LAWBREAKERS TO JAIL: YIELDS MILLIONS FOR LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS
Release Date: 02/25/1997
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office (617) 918-1064
Boston - The New England office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released today a summary of its 1996 enforcement records that highlight a record year for criminal prosecutions. Another important highlight of a very strong enforcement year was the agency's successful effort to transfer penalty dollars into local environmental improvement projects. More than $2 million that would normally have been sent to Washington in fines were instead put toward open space acquisition, pollution prevention and other environmental benefits for New England.
"We set new records for criminal enforcement in 1996 and we're proud of it - more convictions, including the largest fine in Massachusetts history - and more jail time for environmental lawbreakers than ever before," said EPA's New England Administrator John P. DeVillars. "Even as we launch efforts to reward our best companies with greater regulatory flexibility through our Environmental Leadership and StarTrack programs, we want to stay focused on those who are still -- despite public pressure and government action -- breaking the law. We've doubled our criminal enforcement staff from 7 in 1993 to 14 today. And with that increased investment has come increased performance," said DeVillars.
The agency statistics show more that $3 million were assessed in criminal fines, restitution, and other penalties, more than $1 million in penalties collected from administrative cases filed against companies and municipalities for environmental law violations, and nearly $2 million in penalties from judicial cases. Another $2 million was directed to local environmental projects that included the preservation of more than 500 acres of valued wetlands, funding for an environmental group to conduct watershed monitoring, and establishment of a national automobile antifreeze recycling program. These supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) are negotiated as part of settlements and go further than the law requires in environmental protection.
EPA calculated national pollution reductions resulting from enforcement actions: carbon monoxide was reduced by 199.5 million pounds; lead emissions reduced by 16.6 million pounds; volatile organic compounds (a component of smog) reduced by 10.5 million pounds; and particle pollution (soot) by 8.9 million pounds.
EPA's regional criminal office saw 11 indictments returned against New England individuals and companies, three million dollars in criminal fines, restitution, and other penalties, and a 30 percent increase in the number of new cases.
Earl E. Devaney, director of EPA's National Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training said, "The accomplishments of the Criminal Investigation Division in New England mirrors what is happening nationally as EPA's Special Agents receive the strong support of the Agency's regulators in ferreting out the most egregious environmental violations for criminal investigation and prosecution. More than ever before, EPA's criminal program is also working directly with state and local law enforcement to focus on violations which pose the greatest threat to the community."
Of the 11 criminal indictments returned against 11 parties in 1996, nine were against individuals and two against companies, more than three times the number indicted last year. Forty-four new investigations were undertaken this past year, and 24 cases, some involving multiple defendants, were referred to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution, up from 20 cases referred in the previous year.
Convictions this year in New England resulted in a total of 59 months of incarceration (an increase of 11 percent), 114 months of probation (an increase of 190 percent), and $2,905,500 in criminal fines, penalties and restitution. Last year's convictions included 53 months of incarceration, 39 months of probation, and $35,328 in fines. There are now 75 open cases in New England, up from 61 last year.
"Our record this year reflects not only a renewed commitment to ground-breaking environmental enforcement, but it exemplifies the breadth of the criminal program's coverage of environmental violations. This year more than half of the criminal cases we were involved in (56%) were in disadvantaged communities where significant numbers of low income and minority families live." said DeVillars. "This year's accomplishments throughout New England make clear our determination to bring justice to all communities."
Because of its recent successes and broad public support, the criminal program continues to expand even during a period of uncertain or declining budgets. In February 1995, the EPA opened a criminal investigation office in New Haven, Connecticut. There are now three agents assigned to that office.
"The agency's expanded presence in Connecticut will yield great returns in environmental and public health protections for the citizens of that state," said DeVillars. "Our New Haven office, coupled with a great working relationship with the United States Attorney for Connecticut, Chris Droney, has already paid significant dividends. More than half of this year's new cases are in Connecticut and just under half of the combined number of indictments, pleas and convictions were in this state as well."
1996 Criminal Case Highlights
In late October of last year, EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced the single largest criminal fine ever levied in Massachusetts. Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) was sentence to pay a fine of $2.75 million and five years probation for knowingly discharging oil and grease to the Charles River. Conrail pleaded guilty to violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act for discharges from its Beacon Park Rail Yard in Allston. The discharge caused a visible oil slick on the Charles River hundreds of yards long and was seen by a rower who reported it to environmental authorities.
In June of 1996, Mark O. Henry of North Andover, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for conspiring to transport hazardous waste to an unpermitted facility. Henry's operation of Beede Waste Oil of Plaistow, New Hampshire, claimed to customers that he recycled petroleum contaminated soil into cold mix asphalt. In fact, Beede only processed a small amount of the more than 25,000 tons of soil that its customers paid nearly 2 million dollars to recycle. The facility has since been shut down by state officials and is proposed to be added to the National Priority List as a federal Superfund site.
Thomas Kassery, the owner of a defunct Bridgeport metal plating business, pleaded guilty to abandoning his Lesbia Street metal plating shop in 1993, leaving behind uncovered plating and stripping baths, open and unsealed drums of acids and cyanides, and large quantities of other dangerous hazardous wastes. He was sentenced to six months home confinement, five years probation, and $5,000 in restitution.
In June 1996, Larry A. Durant, a construction foreman for Winston Management and Investments, Inc. was sentenced to four months of home detention and two years of probation for burying approximately 30 dumpsters of asbestos at a large demolition and renovation site in Waterbury,. CT. The asbestos was subsequently removed and disposed of at a cost of more than $120,000.
1996 Administrative Case Highlights
General Electric Co. in Lynn, MA agreed to pay a $225,000 civil penalty and spend at least another $1.2 million as a SEP to replace oil-based coolants with a water-based alternative in its milling and lathing machine processes. The company also agreed to other emissions restrictions for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co, paid a $23,560 environmental penalty and agreed to set up a nationwide recycling program for antifreeze liquids at an estimated cost of $709,000 to Goodyear. EPA found the company, in three New England locations, had untrained technicians servicing automobile air conditioners and further found that the repair shops lacked required recovery and recycling facilities for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Nearly 500 acres of wetlands will be preserved as part of a settlement agreement with Cumberland Farms Inc. and other parties for illegal filling of wetlands to develop cranberry bogs. This represents the largest permanent habitat preservation project resulting from a federal enforcement action in New England. Cumberland Farms also paid a $50,000 civil penalty to settle the case.
CPF of Ayer, MA, a beverage bottler, paid a $160,786 civil penalty for discharging polluted wastewater to a treatment plant that discharges to the Nashua River. The settlement package included a number of SEPs to further protect the river: 1) $80,000 to purchase 15 acres of valuable habitat along the Nashua River; 2) $7,000 on a erosion prevention project along the Squannacook River, a tributary to the Nashua River and; 3) $12,625 for a bi-lingual storm sewer stenciling project to stop people from dumping waste down public storm drains that empty into the Nashua River.
The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Boston, MA, has agreed to provide hazardous waste training to all appropriate personnel at VA hospitals across New England as part of a settlement reached with EPA for violations of federal hazardous waste laws. In addition, the VA paid a civil penalty of $74,300.