Prosecutors Protecting Our Nation’s Ecological Heritage
Welcome to the Environmental Crimes Section (ECS). ECS’s forty prosecutors and ten support staff bring criminal cases against individuals and organizations that break the laws that protect our nation’s ecological and wildlife resources. ECS attorneys bring cases throughout ninety-four federal judicial districts, provide advice and training to other prosecutors and investigators, and coordinate with ENRD’s Law and Policy Section on policy and legislative matters. The Section also serves as a nationwide clearinghouse for information about how to investigate and prosecute environmental crime. Much of the Section’s work is done in partnership with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, many of which are staffed with Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) who have trained at an annual Environmental Crimes Seminar organized by ECS.
A typical environmental crime—such as the knowing discharge of raw sewage to one of our nation’s waterways or the killing of a bald eagle—is investigated by Special Agents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, by Special Agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service, or by one of our other investigative partners. An ECS prosecutor often gets involved early in an investigation, such as when the investigator swears out a search warrant or when a grand jury’s investigative power is needed. Once the necessary evidence is collected, the prosecutor presents the case to the grand jury for indictment. After indictment, the prosecutor guides the case through complex white collar and environmental law issues and prepares it for trial. Although many cases settle through plea agreements, some do not. ECS has an excellent track record in federal court. From 1997 through 2010, ECS concluded criminal cases against more than 900 individuals and 350 corporate defendants, leading to 500 years of incarceration and $785 million in criminal fines and restitution.
State and local governments also address environmental crimes, often in the context of state regulations that are linked to parallel federal statutes. In many instances, the same actions may be violations of federal, state, and local laws. In order to conserve resources and improve the efficiency of environmental enforcement efforts, ECS attorneys have often helped assemble environmental crimes task forces. Consisting of federal, state, and local personnel, these task forces have successfully identified and handled many environmental crimes cases.