U.S. ATTORNEY PRESENTS $70,000 FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS IN SOUTHSIDE COLUMBUS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
TUESDAY December 13, 2011
Public Affairs Officer
COLUMBUS – Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, today presented $70,000 to the Grange Insurance Audubon Center to support the Conservation Classroom Program that serves students in ten schools in south Columbus that are within the Columbus City Schools.
The presentation took place at the Center located on the Whittier Peninsula in Columbus. Joining Mr. Stewart in making the presentation was Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, Chicago area.
The money was presented to Columbus Public Schools Superintendent/CEO Dr. Gene T. Harris, Center Director Christie Vargo, Conservation Classroom Program Coordinator Amy Boyd, and Principal Melinda Dixon from Livingston Elementary School.
The Conservation Classroom Program provides environmental education to the students. Any funds remaining will be used to plant trees or shrubs at the Center or other approved programs for the benefit of the residents of South Columbus.
Funds for the program come from Columbus Steel Castings Company as part of the sentence imposed on the company in November 2011 arising out of a federal prosecution for violating the Clean Air Act.
“Investigating and prosecuting environmental crimes is one of the traditional missions of the Department of Justice,” Stewart said while making the presentation. “We have an Environmental Crimes Task Force of about 12 federal, state and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies who work to safeguard our environment. The past 14 months have been the most productive period of environmental prosecutions in the history of this U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
“To assure compliance with environmental laws, governments need complete and accurate documents,” said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “On numerous occasions, the defendant not only knowingly failed to comply with environmental regulations designed to protect public health and the environment but also failed to report malfunctions and deviations of air emissions control equipment. Companies that submit false reports or fail to perform required emission readings undermine our efforts and they will be vigorously prosecuted.”
“This additional $70,000 will give us the ability to serve half again as many schools this year and next as we were able to do last year,” said Christine Vargo, Director of the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. “This takes us to nine schools in south Columbus, 12 full-day field trips each, and nearly 13,000 student hours in the field with hands-on experiences to reinforce science, math, and language arts classroom studies. This funding allows the Center to carry out its mission to awaken and connect members of the community to the beauty of the natural world in the heart of Columbus and inspire environmental stewardship in their daily lives.”
“Ohio EPA works hard to develop air permits and help facilities comply with state and federal laws to protect public health and the environment,” explained Ohio EPA Director Scott J. Nally. “This case sets an example for facilities that are recalcitrant and chose not to work with the agency.”
“The Conservation Classroom program offered by the Grange Insurance Audubon Center provides the ultimate in outdoor education for our students,” said Superintendent /CEO Gene T. Harris, Ph.D. “To have this program fully funded at ten of our schools this year is a wonderful benefit.”
“I am pleased that money from this sentence can be used to teach young people the importance of conservation and protecting the environment for future generations of Ohioans,” said Attorney General DeWine.
Recent environmental cases prosecuted federally include:
Prosecution of violations of the Lacey Act involving illegal transport of deer between Ohio and South Carolina. These prosecutions brought some of the largest fines or restitution amounts and jail sentences in the country for this type of crime.
Prosecuting one of the largest hog farms in the state for criminal water pollution after by-products were discharged into a nearby creek killing more than 35,000 fish and aquatic animals.
Securing almost $44,000 in restitution to the Forest Service for the fair market value of more than 800 trees illegally harvested from the Wayne National Forest.
The conviction of a former Pomeroy village administrator for falsifying village EPA reports.
And securing a sentence in the district’s first asbestos case for the company owner that required a combination of house arrest and work release which sends a message but also allows him to maintain the viability of the company and its jobs.
Stewart also commended the agents with the U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Environmental Enforcement Unit who investigated the case, as well as Special Assistant United States Attorney Karla Gebel Perrin with the U.S. EPA and Assistant United States Attorney J. Michael Marous who prosecuted the case.