NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Increased Sentences For "Environmental Crimes"

April 21, 2000

The Environmental Protection Agency is sending about four times as many criminal referrals to the Justice Department for prosecution as it did in 1990. Moreover, federal prosecutors are charging more than three times as many people with environmental crimes as it did a decade ago.

  • The number of EPA referrals jumped from 65 in 1990 to 241 cases last year -- having peaked at 278 in 1997.
  • One-hundred defendants were charged in 1990, which rose to 350 in 1998 -- falling to 324 last year.
  • Those found guilty last year were sentenced to a total of 2,486 months of prison time -- a record amount -- compared to 745 months in 1990.
  • The average sentence during the past three years has been seven months in jail -- compared to 4.5 months in 1994-1996.

Federal prosecutors claim their strategy is to concentrate on the most egregious violators and they report that judges are taking environmental crimes more seriously. Offenses included unsafe working conditions, safety violations, oil spills and improper hazardous waste handling.

Source: Tom Kenworthy, "It's a New World: Polluters Go to Prison," USA Today, April 21, 2000.


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