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Environmental Crimes

           An important part of protecting human health and the environment is through the enforcement of our nation’s environmental laws.  The U.S. Attorney’s office is committed to pursuing both civil and criminal enforcement actions to ensure compliance with those laws and to recoup cleanup response costs.

           Our nation’s environmental laws include criminal provisions that address both knowing and negligent environmental violations.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) work together to investigate environmental crimes in the state of Michigan and refer those matters for prosecution.  Those agencies also rely on the EPA’s accredited environmental forensic laboratory, the National Enforcement Investigations Center, in Colorado.  

           Most environmental crimes involve intentional violations of the law, which are classified as felonies under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, as well as the federal hazardous waste law known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.  For example, an intentional decision to discharge pollutants into a river without a permit, or to bypass a required pollution control device, is a criminal act that carries the possibility of incarceration and monetary fines.  Additionally, other federal laws – including the Endangered Species Act and The Lacey Act – protect threatened and endangered species from unlawful wildlife trafficking and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities.

           Examples of environmental crimes investigated by the EPA include:

  • Air emissions of toxic pollutants resulting from inadequate or nonexistent pollution control
  • Illegal asbestos removals that expose and create health risks for workers and the public 
  • Illegal discharges into waters or sewer systems that threaten public safety and cause damage to our water infrastructure
  • Illegal handling, transportation, and disposal of hazardous wastes and pesticides
  • Oil spills
  • False statements to the EPA or the State of Michigan that threaten the integrity of environmental protection programs

           The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement investigates crimes that include:

  • International and domestic smuggling rings that target endangered animals
  • Unlawful commercial exploitation of protected species
  • Violations of migratory game bird hunting laws and other illegal takings

           The public is encouraged to report possible environmental violations taking place in our community.  If you suspect a possible violation of environmental laws, please report non-emergency incidents to the EPA at or to the Michigan DEQ at 1-800-662-9278.

           To report an environmental emergency situation, contact the 24-hour Pollution Emergency Alert System at 1-800-292-4706.  In the event of an oil/chemical spill emergency and other sudden threats to public health, contact the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

Updated January 28, 2015

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