Harsher Penalties for CWA Violations Proposed

March 2011Newsletters In the Zone

On Feb. 15, 2011, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) renewed his efforts to enact legislation to enhance penalties for corporations and individuals responsible for environmental crimes. Leahy first introduced the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act in June 2010, following the April explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Leahy authored bill will racket up penalties, including jail time, for companies that violate the Clean Water Act and provide victims of environmental crime with access to compensation for their loss. An important goal of the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act is to ensure penalties for corporate misconduct include prison time, not fines alone, which can be a mere cost of doing business. The Judiciary Committee approved the legislation last year, but it was not acted on by the full Senate.

The Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act directs the Sentencing Commission to review and amend sentencing guidelines to reflect the seriousness of environmental crime. It also makes restitution mandatory for Clean Water Act violations. Under current law, restitution is discretionary and only available under limited circumstances. The Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act will help victims like those affected by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, including the families of those killed by the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, seek compensation for their losses caused by criminal activity.

The Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act is co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

For more information, please contact M. Joel Bolstein at 215.918.3555 or [email protected].