Environment Prosecutions for February 2013

Number Latest Month 32
Percent Change from previous month -3.0
Percent Change from 1 year ago -53.1
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -36.1
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -10.0
Table 1: Criminal Environment Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during February 2013 the government reported 32 new environment prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 3% 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 (-53.1 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 36.1 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 10 percent instead of 36.1 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 February 2013 was for "Environ-Wildlife Protection", accounting for 78.1 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Environ-Environmental Crimes" (21.9%). See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for environment prosecutions in February 2013 was Interior accounting for 69 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of environment referrals were: Agri (16% ), EPA (16%). 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 February 2013, 12 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 February the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 16 U.S.C Section 3372 involving the "Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts". This was the lead charge for 50 percent of all magistrate filings in February.

Environment Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In February 2013, 20 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during February there were an additional 1 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 February.

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 February 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank  
16 USC 3372 - Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts 9 1 More
18 USC 1511 - Obstruction of State or local law enforcement 4 2 More
33 USC 1319 - Water Pollution - Enforcement 3 3 More
16 USC 668 - Bald and golden eagles 1 4 More
16 USC 690 - Game and Bird Reserves - regulations, penalties 1 4 More
16 USC 703 - Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds 1 4 More
16 USC 1538 - Endangered Species - Prohibitive acts 1 4 More
42 USC 7412 - Nat'l emission standards hazardous air pollutants 1 4 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 "Obstruction of State or local law enforcement" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1511.

  • Ranked 3rd was "Water Pollution - Enforcement" under Title 33 U.S.C Section 1319.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In February 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 8.2 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  
Okla, N 4 1 More
Tenn, M 4 1 More
Ohio, N 3 3 More
Puer Rico 2 4 More
Wash, W 2 4 More
Cal, C 1 6 More
Fla, S 1 6 More
Idaho 1 6 More
Ill, S 1 6 More
Miss, N 1 6 More
S Dakota 1 6 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts

  • The Northern District of Oklahoma (Tulsa) and Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville)—with 4 prosecutions—were the most active during February 2013.

  • Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland) 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 February 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Sharp, Kevin Hunter Tenn, M 4 1 More
Nugent, Donald C. Ohio, N 3 2 More
Pechman, Marsha J. Wash, W 2 3 More
Williams, Kathleen Mary Fla, S 1 4 More
Winmill, B. Lynn Idaho 1 4 More
Gilbert, John Phil Ill, S 1 4 More
Sanders, Harold Barefoot, Jr. Miss, N 1 4 More
Eagan, Claire V. Okla, N 1 4 More
Frizzell, Gregory Kent Okla, N 1 4 More
Besosa, Francisco Augusto Puer Rico 1 4 More
Delgado-Colon, Aida M. Puer Rico 1 4 More
Gerdes, William S Dakota 1 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 Kevin Hunter Sharp in the Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville) ranked 1st with 4 defendants in environment cases.

  • Judge Donald C. Nugent in the Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland) ranked 2nd with 3 defendants in environment cases.

  • Judge Marsha J. Pechman in the Western District of Washington (Seattle) ranked 3rd with 2 defendants in environment cases.

Report Generated: April 23, 2013
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