(Note: Attorney General Often Deviates From Prepared Remarks)
Good afternoon. Today, I am announcing a new environmental crimes prevention program, the Hazardous Materials Transportation-or HAZMAT-Initiative.
For this announcement, I am honored to be joined by Secretary Mineta of the Department of Transportation, Marion Blakey, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Ken Mead, Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Greg Lockhart, the United States Attorney from the Southern District of Ohio, and Tim Burgess, United States Attorney from Alaska.
I also thank the Department of Homeland Security, under the dedicated leadership of Secretary Tom Ridge, and the Transportation Security Administration, which are working with the Federal Aviation Administration to secure our transportation networks.
Since the attacks of September 11, the overarching mission of the Justice Department has been the prevention of terrorism.
With that in mind, I directed each component of the Justice Department to dedicate resources to homeland security efforts, while maintaining a focus on their other crucial responsibilities.
Under the innovative leadership of Tom Sansonetti, the Environment and Natural Resources Division has developed and is implementing the HAZMAT Initiative. This plan uses available tools in environmental and safety law to deal with potential security threats from the illegal transport of hazardous materials.
The HAZMAT Initiative is doing for transport safety what we are doing across the country for passenger safety on the roads, the rails, and in the air.
Considering the numbers, it is clear why hazardous materials are a concern. More than 1.5 billion tons of hazardous materials are shipped annually. Complex shipment routes create opportunities for those seeking to harm our citizens and disrupt our way of life.
Over the past two years, terrorists have forced us to alter our assumptions about their targets and tactics. It is not difficult to postulate a terrorist attack that involves hazardous materials.
Thousands of deaths and injuries and severe property damage could result from an incident involving illegal transportation of hazardous materials.
The Department's initial investigation of possible vulnerabilities in this area indicated the potential for significant and repeated illegal transport of hazardous materials, whether by air, sea, road or rail.
A concentrated effort was necessary to root out bad actors and protect the American people from the potentially severe consequences of hazmat violations.
The HAZMAT Initiative targets violators of hazmat requirements in all transportation modes. It will make it more difficult for terrorists and other criminals to transport or ultimately obtain hazardous materials illegally.
The Department has established a core team of criminal prosecutors from the Environment and Natural Resources Division, who will work with the 93 United States Attorneys and the Department of Transportation. They will train hazmat enforcement and regulatory personnel and prosecutors to track down and bring to justice violators of hazmat laws.
This Initiative has already borne fruit. This morning, in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Emery Worldwide Airlines, Inc., entered a plea of guilty to 12 felony violations of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
In this case, which was unrelated to any terrorist activity, Emery illegally transported materials, including explosives, radioactive materials, and flammable gas and liquid, by aircraft. As a result, in many instances pilots in command of the aircraft had no written notice that hazardous materials were on the aircraft. By continuing to transport hazmat without sufficiently addressing the problems identified in internal audits, Emery willfully violated the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
In connection with its guilty plea regarding these violations, Emery will pay a $6 million criminal penalty and will develop a compliance program to detect and prevent future violations.
Protecting and preserving the environment for future generations of Americans is a top priority of the Justice Department. But as this Hazmat Initiative shows, the environmental and safety laws also protect the health and security of our citizens.
Compliance with, and enforcement of, these laws makes a real difference in our level of national preparedness. All those who violate these laws are on notice: we will prosecute those who knowingly break the law and endanger our land and our lives.
I thank Tom Sansonetti for his leadership and I commend the Environment and Natural Resources Division for its efforts to make the Hazmat Initiative a success. Each and every day, your commitment makes a difference in the health of our citizens, the protection of our environment and the security of our nation.
Now, it is my pleasure to turn the podium over to Secretary Norman Mineta of the Department of Transportation.