WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over the past five years, the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) has worked tirelessly to enforce the nation’s civil and criminal environmental laws, resulting in numerous accomplishments, and tangible benefits that protect and restore America’s natural resources.
During FY 2005, ENRD obtained unprecedented civil relief and had a criminal conviction rate of almost 90 percent in environmental crimes cases. The Division secured commitments by polluters to spend a record-breaking nearly $9.6 billion on corrective measures, imposed nearly $137 million in civil penalties and won sentences of 25 years of jail time for violators.
“I am proud of the accomplishments and the strong record of the Environment and Natural Resources Division,” said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Assistant Attorney General. “As we celebrate Earth Day, we renew our commitment to enforcing the laws that protect our environment and our beautiful and valuable natural resources.”
Highlights of ENRD Accomplishments in 2005 and 2006
Cleaning our Air.
A settlement was reached with the Ohio Edison Power Company which will result in a reduction of an estimated 212,000 tons per year of harmful sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. The pollution controls and other measures required by the settlement are expected to cost approximately $1.1 billion. The $8.5 million civil penalty imposed is the second largest penalty against a power plant.
A multi-state Clean Air Act settlement reached with Cargill, Inc. will result in the reduction of approximately 30,000 tons of pollution a year and set new standards for limiting harmful emissions from specialty oilseed plants. Under the settlement, Cargill is required to install air pollution control devices at its 27 corn and oilseed processing facilities and is expected to spend an estimated $130 million to meet the requirements of the consent decree. Cargill also paid a civil penalty of $1.6 million and will spend $3.5 million on environmental projects across the country.
Several settlements were reached with petroleum refineries: an agreement with ConocoPhillips, involving nine refineries, located in seven states, and representing approximately 10 percent of the total refining capacity in the U.S. will result in the installation of $525 million in pollution control technology that is expected to reduce harmful emissions by more than 47,100 tons per year. A settlement with Valero and Sunoco is expected result in reductions of harmful air emissions by more than 44,000 tons per year from 18 refineries in eight states. And a settlement with ExxonMobil is expected to reduce harmful air emissions by more than 53,000 tons per year at the company’s seven U.S. petroleum refineries, and will result in the installation of $571 million in pollution control technology.
Prosecuting Environmental Offenses and Worker Endangerment.
The Department pursued both civil and criminal claims against the Motiva Enterprises, LLC for violations of the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, relating to an explosion at an oil refinery that killed one employee, injured eight, and spilled 99,000 gallons of acid into the Delaware River. Motiva was sentenced to pay a $10 million criminal fine, serve three years of probation, pay a $12 million civil penalty and spend almost $4 million on environmental projects to benefit the community.
Several cases were successfully prosecuted against McWane, Inc. and its subsidiaries for multiple violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Tyler Pipe Company paid $4.5 million, the largest criminal fine imposed against any of the McWane divisions. The criminal trial of another McWane subsidiary, Atlantic States, is currently ongoing in New Jersey.
Protecting Waterways from Illegal Dumping.
Paying the largest fine involving a single vessel charged with deliberate pollution, MSC Ship Management (Hong Kong) Limited pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $10 million criminal fine after admitting to engaging in conspiracy, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, false statements and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The container shipping company was also ordered to pay an additional $500,000 for a community service project.
A $25 million fine—the largest of its kind against a shipping company—was imposed against Evergreen International, S.A., which pleaded guilty to 24 felonies for bypassing required pollution control equipment. This case was part of the ongoing Vessel Pollution Initiative to protect oceans and waterways from illegal dumping.
In another vessel pollution case, Rick Stickle, chairman and owner of Sabine Transportation Company was found guilty by a jury of dumping 444 tons of oil contaminated grain on the high seas and sentenced to 33 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay $60,000 in fines. His company previously paid $2 million in fines for related crimes.
In one of the most significant wetlands criminal enforcement prosecutions in U.S. history, three individual defendants and two companies were sentenced for illegally developing a large wetlands tract on Mississippi’s gulf coast and for defrauding the residents who bought homes there. The individual defendants received a combined 23.6 years in prison and were fined a combined $45,000, and the two defendant companies were fined more than $5 million combined and each was sentenced to five years probation.
In joint federal-state actions, two major Clean Water Act settlements were reached with Baltimore County and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, resulting in more than $1 billion in sewer system improvements in the DC area. The settlements will serve to protect regional waters from contamination by untreated sewage, which contains bacteria, pathogens and other harmful pollutants that seriously degrade water quality, harm aquatic life and threaten public health.
The Department also reached a Clean Water Act settlement with Louisville and Jefferson County, KY Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD). The settlement ensures that MSD will make extensive improvements to its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized discharges of untreated sewage and to address problems of overflows from sewers that carry a combination of untreated sewage and storm water at a cost likely to exceed $500 million.
Cleaning Up Hazardous Waste Sites.
In a significant step toward cleaning up polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) in the Hudson River, a consent decree was lodged requiring the General Electric Company (GE) to begin the dredging in the Hudson River PCB’s Superfund site. The first phase of dredging is expected to remove about 10 percent of the total volume of PCB-contaminated sediment and will cost between $100 million and $150 million. In addition, GE is required to pay the Environmental Protection Agency up to $78 million for past and future clean-up costs.
As the latest in a series of partial settlements aimed at cleaning up and restoring the Lower Fox River and Green Bay Superfund Site in northeastern Wisconsin, the Division reached a partial settlement with NCR Corp. and Sonoco-U.S. Mills, Inc. The two companies will spend an estimated $30 million on the expedited dredging and disposal of the most highly-contaminated sediments in the Fox River, furthering the already substantial progress made on cleanup and restoration of the entire site—one of the largest contaminated sediment sites in the U.S.
Safeguarding Protected and Endangered Species.
A husband and wife were convicted of conspiracy and false labeling of endangered and threatened animals. Nancy Kraft was sentenced to 15 months and Kenneth Kraft to 18 months in prison for an operation involving the sale of tigers, leopards, and grizzly bears from a wildlife park.
The former operator of a website known as DEADZOO.com and Exotic & Unique Gifts, a Florida-based business, was sentenced to 25 months in prison and three years of supervised release for selling and offering to sell more than $200,000 worth of endangered species in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). McMaster admitted that during 2003 and 2004, he offered for sale or sold in innerstate commerce more than $200,000 worth of tiger, snow leopard and jaguar skins as well as a gorilla skull and baby tiger mounts.
The more than 400 attorneys with the Environment and Natural Resources Division have the task of enforcing our Nation’s environmental laws which protect the air, water, land, wildlife, and natural resources as well as upholding our trust responsibilities to Native Americans, and furthering important federal programs, including the government’s mission to ensure national security. The Division currently has a docket of approximately 6,800 active cases and matters, involving more than 70 different environmental and natural resources statutes.
The Environment and Natural Resources Division is committed to fairly and vigorously enforcing the Nation’s environmental laws to protect our natural resources and providing a level playing field for business to compete.