The Environmental Protection Agency will take civil or criminal enforcement action against violators of environmental laws. States also have environment agencies that investigate and prosecute environmental offenses. Environmental enforcement can involve civil administrative actions (non-judicial enforcement actions taken by EPA or a state under its own authority), civil lawsuits (formal lawsuits filed in court by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA or filed by the State’s Attorneys General on behalf of the states), and criminal prosecution (EPA or a state enforce against a company or person through a criminal action).
The Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal enforcement program was established in 1982 and was granted full law enforcement authority by Congress in 1988. Today the program has more than 350 specially trained investigators, chemists, engineers, technicians, lawyers, and support staff. Environmental crimes typically fall into one of three categories: pollution crimes, wildlife crimes, and animal welfare crimes. There are criminal penalties associated with nearly every environmental statutue, including: Environmental Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), and National Forests & National Park Service Lands. Environmental prosecutions are not limited to the above statutes as environmental charges can also be accompanied by charges such as wire or mail fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, false statements, smuggling, perjury, theft, or various crimes against the government. The Environmental Crimes Section (ECS) is empowered to investigate and prosecute violations of additional criminal statutes when such violations arise in the course of environmental crimes investigations.