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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Two Iowa Men Indicted for Clean Air Act Violations

WASHINGTON—A federal grand jury in Des Moines, Iowa, has returned an indictment charging Robert Joe Knapp, the owner of Equitable L.P.; and Russell William Coco, the supervisor for Knapp, with committing violations of the Clean Air Act while they were overseeing the demolition and renovation of The Equitable Building, the Justice Department announced. 

The indictment describes a more than two-year-long operation in which several floors of The Equitable Building, located in downtown Des Moines, were illegally demolished while still containing large amounts of asbestos. The indictment goes on to allege that asbestos that was removed from the building during the demolition and renovation project was removed illegally, placed into open dumpsters and improperly disposed of in a landfill.

The eleven-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Clean Air Act. The defendants are also charged with violating the Clean Air Act’s "work-practice standards" intended to prevent releases of asbestos and failing to give notice prior to renovation and demolition.

The conspiracy and substantive Clean Air Act counts of the indictment each carry a maximum possible term of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Congress and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have determined that asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant. Congress has found that medical science has established no minimum level of exposure to asbestos fibers which is considered safe to exposed persons.

The allegations in the indictment are mere accusations and all persons are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by special agents of the EPA and inspectors for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Iowa and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.

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