Environment Prosecutions for April 2013

Number Latest Month 75
Percent Change from previous month 87.5
Percent Change from 1 year ago -37.7
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -14.2
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -6.6
Table 1: Criminal Environment Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during April 2013 the government reported 75 new environment prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 87.5% over the previous month.

The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with environment-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. (See Table 1)

When monthly 2013 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was down (-37.7 percent). Prosecutions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 14.2 percent from levels reported in 2008.

The dip in these cases is partly related to increases in the matters filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. If magistrate cases are excluded and only Federal District Court cases are counted, the overall decrease in environment prosecutions is 6.6 percent instead of 14.2 percent. The evidence suggests that part of the difference may be the result of improvements in the recording of the magistrate cases by the Justice Department.

Plot of _FREQ_ by FYMONDT

Figure 1: Monthly trends in environment prosecutions

The decrease from the levels five years ago in environment prosecutions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of environment prosecutions of this type recorded on a month-to-month basis. Where a prosecution was initially filed in U.S. Magistrate Court and then transferred to the U.S. District Court, the magistrate filing date was used since this provides an earlier indicator of actual trends. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. The one and five-year rates of change in Table 1 and in the sections that follow are all based upon this six-month moving average. To view trends year-by-year rather than month-by-month, see TRAC's annual report series for a broader picture.

Within the broad category of environment, cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.

Case types within environment are

  • Illegal Discharge of Toxic, Hazardous or Carcinogenic Waste

  • Wildlife Protection

  • Marine Resources

  • Environmental Crime

The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in April 2013 was for "Environ-Wildlife Protection", accounting for 72 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Environ-Environmental Crimes" (28%). See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for environment prosecutions in April 2013 was Interior accounting for 72 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of environment referrals were: EPA (12% ), Commerce (7%), DHS (7%), Agri (3%). See Figure 3.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2: Specific types of prosecutions
Pie chart of agenrevgrp

Figure 3: Prosecutions by investigative agency

Environment Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In April 2013, 29 defendants in environment cases for these matters were filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. These courts handle less serious misdemeanor cases, including what are called "petty offenses." In addition, complaints are sometimes filed in the magistrate courts before an indictment or information is entered. In these cases, the matter starts in the magistrate courts and later moves to the district court where subsequent proceedings take place.

In the magistrate courts in April the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 16 U.S.C Section 703 involving the "Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds". This was the lead charge for 55.2 percent of all magistrate filings in April.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "18 USC 545 - Smuggling goods into the United States" (17.2%).

Environment Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In April 2013, 46 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during April there were an additional 3 defendants whose cases moved from the magistrate courts to the U.S. district courts after an indictment or information was filed. The sections which follow cover both sets of cases and therefore cover all matters filed in district court during April.

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of environment matters filed in U.S. District Court during April 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank  
16 USC 3372 - Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts 17 1 More
33 USC 1319 - Water Pollution - Enforcement 6 2 More
42 USC 7413 - Air Pollution Prevention and Control - Fed strd 4 3 More
16 USC 470 - Archeological Resource Protection 3 4 More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 3 4 More
33 USC 1908 - Prevention of Pollution from Ships - Penalties 3 4 More
16 USC 668 - Bald and golden eagles 2 7 More
16 USC 703 - Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds 2 7 More
16 USC 1372 - Marine Mammal Protection - Prohibitions 2 7 More
16 USC 372 - Laws Operative in judicial district of Arkansas 1 10 More
16 USC 1538 - Endangered Species - Prohibitive acts 1 10 More
16 USC 3373 - Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - penalties, sanct 1 10 More
18 USC 1001 - Fraud/false statements or entries generally 1 10 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 1 10 More
33 USC 1311 - Effluent limitations - Water Pollution 1 10 More
46 USC 2302 - Operation of Vessels; Penalties for negligent op 1 10 More
Table 2: Top charges filed

  • "Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts" (Title 16 U.S.C Section 3372) was the most frequent recorded lead charge.

  • Ranked 2nd in frequency was the lead charge "Water Pollution - Enforcement" under Title 33 U.S.C Section 1319.

  • Ranked 3rd was "Air Pollution Prevention and Control - Fed strd" under Title 42 U.S.C Section 7413.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In April 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 19.2 environment prosecutions for every ten million people in the United States.

Understandably, there is great variation in the number of environment prosecutions that are filed in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.

The districts registering the largest number of prosecutions of this type last month are shown in Table 3.


Judicial District Count Rank  
Minnesota 10 1 More
Alaska 6 2 More
Cal, S 4 3 More
Cal, C 3 4 More
Puer Rico 3 4 More
Colorado 2 6 More
La, M 2 6 More
S Dakota 2 6 More
Texas, N 2 6 More
Wash, E 2 6 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts

  • The District of Minnesota—with 10 prosecutions—was the most active during April 2013.

  • The District of Alaska ranked 2nd.

  • Southern District of California (San Diego) is now ranking 3rd.

Top Ranked District Judges

At any one time, there are about 680 federal District Court judges working in the United States. The judges recorded with the largest number of new environment crime cases of this type during April 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Doty, David Singleton Minnesota 4 1 More
Mumm, Frederick F. Cal, C 3 2 More
Kyle, Richard House Minnesota 3 2 More
Oravec, Scott A. Alaska 2 4 More
Bencivengo, Cathy Ann Cal, S 2 4 More
Krieger, Marcia S. Colorado 2 4 More
Brady, James J. La, M 2 4 More
Tunheim, John R. Minnesota 2 4 More
Delgado-Colon, Aida M. Puer Rico 2 4 More
Simko, John E. S Dakota 2 4 More
Fitzwater, Sidney Allen Texas, N 2 4 More
Van Sickle, Frederick L. Wash, E 2 4 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

All 12 of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of environment filings . (Because of ties, there were a total of 12 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judge David Singleton Doty in the District of Minnesota ranked 1st with 4 defendants in environment cases.

  • Judges Frederick F. Mumm in the Central District of California (Los Angeles) and Richard House Kyle in the District of Minnesota ranked 2nd with 3 defendants in environment cases.

Report Generated: June 10, 2013
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