environmental law violations: an overview
The United States government regulates activities that impact the environment through a complex scheme of statutes and agency regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bears the responsibility for carrying out the regulations set forth in Congressional legislation but also wields the authority to promulgate additional regulations of its own. These regulations impact the depth and course of streams, plant life, wildlife habitats, animals, soil quality, air quality, water quality, control of hazardous waste, limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and effects on recreational locations.
However, compliance with environmental regulations usually requires the expenditure of significantly increased overhead for businesses. In an attempt to avoid these additional costs, some businesses will refuse to comply with the regulations. Sometimes, businesses openly refuse to comply and will pay governmental fines rather than pay the compliance costs, which surpass the total costs of the fines. Other businesses, however, will try to hide their noncompliance, such as by dumping hazardous waste into rivers, streams, oceans, or otherwise secluded areas rather than paying to have it taken to a chemical treatment plant. Other common types of environmental law violations include littering; improper waste disposal; the use of illegal pesticides in agriculture; releasing particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone in amounts surpassing the regulatory caps; oil spills; the destruction of wetlands; burning garbage; improperly removing and disposing of asbestos; falsifying lab data pertaining to environmental regulations; smuggling illegal chemicals into the country; and committing fraud relating to environmental regulations.
The criminal law characterizes an environmental law violation as a form of white-collar crime. If convicted, violators face fines, probation, jail time, or some combination thereof. Typically, a sentence of jail time is used when dealing with individuals, while corporations face stiff fines. The fines endeavor to offset the financial gain of conducting the illegal activity.