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U.S. EPA and State and Local Law Enforcement Partners Form Southern California Environmental Crimes Task Force

Release Date: 07/31/2003
Contact Information:

John Millett 202-564-7842 /

(07/31/03) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formed an environmental crimes task force in Southern California with the sheriff’s departments of Orange and Los Angeles counties, the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles Port Police and the California Department of Mental Health.

On Wednesday, Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona and his department officially joined the task force during a ceremony at the sheriff’s office. Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca and his department joined the task force in June.

“Since September 11, 2001 Homeland Security has become a high priority for the United States government, and at EPA we are continuing to be both active and vigilant in our calling to protect the public from any possible environmental terrorist activity that could cause a threat to human health and the environment,” said EPA’s John Peter Suarez, the Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This partnership with both state and local authorities in California is just one more way we are protecting ourselves against any possible future terrorist activities, while ensuring a continued quality of life for the American people.”

“This task force is another great example in the ongoing cooperative effort between local law enforcement and the federal government,” said Sheriff Carona.

“I like all my colleagues, have been challenged to rethink the way in which law enforcement conducts business within our jurisdictions, said Sheriff Leroy Baca. “The formation of this Task Force will allow better use of fiscal resources while enhancing the quality of life of those communities we serve.”

“Working through an environmental task force like the one we are creating here in southern California, we will continue to address not only environmental crime challenges through community-oriented and neighborhood watch programs, but we shall do so with a purposeful eye of harnessing the environmental subject matter expertise and environmental information so as to contribute to the defense of our homeland,” said Nick Swanstrom, the director of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. EPA’s criminal program, as it relates to enforcement, is tailored to identify possible threats to the ecosystem and the chemical industry infrastructure that requires protection in Los Angeles and Orange counties. This program will foster a more effective and coordinated law enforcement response to the citizens of the two counties and it should help law enforcement secure their communities from environmental-related threats or vulnerabilities, as well as preventing pollution from entering the environment and placing people at risk.

The agencies will share resources and information on environmental threats, from illegal midnight dumping to threats of large-scale terrorist attacks on chemical plants or other facilities. The focus of the venture will be potential “environmental terrorism” – causing harm to the environment as a means of spreading terror – rather than ecoterrorism. Examples of environmental terrorism could include attempts to damage or destroy any of about 40 chemical plants in the county, or destroying water-supply systems or sewage-treatment systems.

In the 20 years since the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division was founded there have been:

  • nearly 7,000 environmental criminal cases initiated;
  • more than 3,000 cases referred for criminal prosecution;
  • almost 4,000 environmental defendants charged in cases;
  • approximately 3,000 years of jail and probation handed down by the court for environmental crimes;
  • the prevention or reduction of millions of pounds of pollutants emitted, discharged or disposed of within the environment;
  • Nearly $1 billion dollars for criminal fines and restitution.