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Case

J.H. Baxter & Co LLC Investigation - Treatment of Hazardous Waste at Eugene Facility

Docket Number
6:24-mc-387

Overview

The United States is conducting a criminal investigation into the illegal treatment of hazardous waste at J.H. Baxter’s wood treatment facility in Eugene, Oregon, which may have caused contamination to properties near the facility. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality summarized the findings of their prior investigation in a publicly available Amended Notice of Civil Penalty and Assessment Order directed at Respondent J.H. Baxter:

At all material times, Respondent generated more than 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste per month at the Facility and annually reported to DEQ as a large-quantity generator of hazardous waste since at least 1991.

At all material times, Respondent operated five retorts at the Facility to pressure-treat wood products with various chemicals.

At all material times, as a result of the Respondent’s manufacturing of pressure-treated wood products, Respondent generates liquid process waste containing mixtures of at least the following chemicals: pentachlorophenol (PCP), creosote and creosote/oil blends, arsenic, Chemonite and Ammoniacal Copper Zinc (ACZA).

Respondent operates a dedicated evaporator to treat the liquid process waste at the Facility. From approximately March through October 2019, and at other intermittent times, the Facility’s dedicated evaporator was not functional.

On 175 days from approximately December 2015 through October 2019, Respondent pumped approximately 1.7 million gallons of liquid process waste containing the chemical mixtures described above to retorts 81, 82, 83, and 85 at the Facility, bypassed the pollution controls on the retorts, and operated the retorts to heat and “boil off,” or evaporate, the waste. Respondent filled the retorts between one-half to two-thirds full of waste for each event, and on 24 of the 175 days Respondent evaporated waste in multiple retorts on the same day. Retort 81 has a capacity of 50,766 gallons, Retort 82 has a capacity of 45,903 gallons, Retort 83 has a capacity of 32,999 gallons, and Retort 85, has a capacity of 30,081 gallons.

At all material times, the retorts were not dedicated for process waste evaporation. Between events of evaporating waste, the retorts were used for wood treatment.

Respondent does not have a hazardous waste treatment permit for the facility.1

J.H. Baxter and company president Georgia Baxter-Krause have publicly reported the existence of the criminal investigation into the treatment of hazardous waste as part of two pending class-action lawsuits. See Hart v. J.H. Baxter & Co., Inc., Case No. 6:21-CV-663-MK (D. Or.); see also Bell- Alanis v. J.H. Baxter & Co., Case No. 6:21-CV-885-MK (D. Or.). In late 2023, attorneys representing J.H. Baxter and Baxter-Krause stated in nearly identical filings that both entities were targets of an investigation conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigations Division. Hart v. J.H. Baxter & Co., Inc., ECF No. 73, 74; Bell-Alanis v. J.H. Baxter & Co., ECF No. 60, 61.

Crime Victims’ Rights

A victim is “a person that has suffered direct physical, emotional, or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of a crime.” 34 U.S.C. § 20141(e)(2). Under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA, 18 U.S.C. § 3771), a “crime victim” is defined as “a person directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of a Federal offense or an offense in the District of Columbia.” 18 U.S.C. § 3771(e)(2)(A). The CVRA affords victims the following rights:

  • To be reasonably protected from the accused;
  • To reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused;
  • To not be excluded from any public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at the proceeding;
  • To be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding; 
  • To confer with the attorney for the Government in the case;
  • To full and timely restitution as provided in law;
  • To proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
  • To be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy;
  • To be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement; and 
  • To be informed of these rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 10607(c), now 34 U.S.C. § 20141) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman at the U.S. Department of Justice.2

Importantly, the CVRA flatly prohibits any limitation on the executive branch’s prosecutorial discretion, stating: “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to impair the prosecutorial discretion of the Attorney General or any officer under his direction.” 18 U.S.C. § 3771(d)(6).

Further, under the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act (VRRA), 34 U.S.C. § 20141, victims of federal crimes are entitled:

  • To receive reasonable protection from a suspected offender and persons acting in concert with or at the behest of the suspected offender;
  • To be informed of the status of the investigation of the crime to the extent it is appropriate and will not interfere with the investigation;
  • To be informed of the status of the suspected offender, including arrest, detention, release, acceptance of plea, verdict and sentence;
  • To be informed of the place where they may receive emergency medical and social services;
  • To be informed of any restitution or other relief they may be entitled to under law;
  • To be informed of public and private programs available for counseling, treatment and other victim support;
  • To receive assistance in contacting victim service providers; and
  • To have personal property being held for evidentiary purposes maintained in good condition and returned as soon as it is no longer needed.

Contacting the Department of Justice

If you believe you are a victim related to this investigation, you may submit information and/or supplementary materials by submitting a Victim Impact Statement. Please complete any submissions by May 31, 2024. This website will also be used for future case updates.

You may also contact the Department via email, at crimevictimprogram.enrd@usdoj.gov.

NOTE: Our office cannot act as your attorney or provide you with legal advice. You can seek the advice of an attorney with respect to the possibility that you might be a victim, the rights described above, or other related legal matters.

Possibility of Plea Agreements

Additionally, please be aware that federal criminal cases can be resolved by a plea agreement between the United States Department of Justice and a defendant. If you want to inform a prosecutor assigned to this investigation of your views regarding potential plea agreements, or any other aspect of the case, please contact the Environmental Crimes Section by one of the means described above.

Important Note

This notice is provided to ensure a reasonable right to confer with the attorneys for the Government in this matter under the CVRA. All individuals and corporations, to include J.H. Baxter & Co., LLC, and Georgia Baxter-Krause, retain their presumption of innocence, and no inference whatsoever of guilt attaches from the existence of this investigation or this notice.

Court Authorization

This Notice has been issued pursuant to the “Order Authorizing Notification to Potential Crime Victims” entered on the 10th day of April, 2024, by the United States District Court for the District of Oregon (Misc. Case No. 6:24-mc-387).


1Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Amended Notice of Civil Penalty Assessment and Order, DEQ Case No. LQ/HW-WR-2020-204, OAH Case No. 2021-ABC-04953 (May 2022) at 2-3, available on the Oregon.gov website.

2The contact information for Victims’ Rights Ombudsman Ella M. Fitzgerald follows: Address: RFK Main Justice Building 950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Room 2261, Washington, DC 20530-0001; Toll-Free: (877) 574-9302; Phone: (202) 252-1010; Fax: (202) 252-1011 Emailusaeo.VictimOmbudsman@usdoj.gov; Website: https://www.justice.gov/usao/office-victims-rights-ombuds


Case Name
J.H. Baxter & Co LLC Investigation
Updated April 29, 2024