Environment Prosecutions for May 2013

Number Latest Month 32
Percent Change from previous month -56.2
Percent Change from 1 year ago -37.4
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -26.0
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -11.7
Table 1: Criminal Environment Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during May 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 56.2% 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 (-37.4 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 26 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 11.7 percent instead of 26 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 May 2013 was for "Environ-Environmental Crimes", accounting for 50 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Environ-Wildlife Protection" (46.9%), " Environ-Marine Resources" (3.1%). See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for environment prosecutions in May 2013 was Interior accounting for 53 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of environment referrals were: EPA (31% ), Agri (9%), FBI (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 May 2013, 10 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 May 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 50 percent of all magistrate filings in May.

Environment Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In May 2013, 22 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during May there were an additional 4 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 May.

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 May 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank  
33 USC 1319 - Water Pollution - Enforcement 5 1 More
16 USC 668 - Bald and golden eagles 3 2 More
16 USC 3372 - Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts 3 2 More
36 CFR 261.6a - Cut/damage timber, tree, other forest product, except w/authorization 2 4 More
42 USC 7413 - Air Pollution Prevention and Control - Fed strd 2 4 More
42 USC 9603 - Notification requirements re released substances 2 4 More
07 USC 2156 - Animal Fighting Venture Prohibited 1 7 More
16 USC 703 - Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds 1 7 More
16 USC 1372 - Marine Mammal Protection - Prohibitions 1 7 More
16 USC 1538 - Endangered Species - Prohibitive acts 1 7 More
16 USC 3373 - Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - penalties, sanct 1 7 More
18 USC 545 - Smuggling goods into the United States 1 7 More
18 USC 1001 - Fraud/false statements or entries generally 1 7 More
33 USC 1311 - Effluent limitations - Water Pollution 1 7 More
42 USC 6928 - Hazardous Waste Management - Federal Enforcement 1 7 More
Table 2: Top charges filed

  • "Water Pollution - Enforcement" (Title 33 U.S.C Section 1319) was the most frequent recorded lead charge.

  • Ranked 2nd in frequency were the lead charges "Bald and golden eagles" under Title 16 U.S.C Section 668 and "Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts" under Title 16 U.S.C Section 3372.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In May 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 10.2 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  
Arizona 3 1 More
Cal, S 3 1 More
N. Y., N 3 1 More
N Mexico 2 4 More
Ohio, N 2 4 More
S Car 2 4 More
Texas, E 2 4 More
Wash, W 2 4 More
Alaska 1 9 More
Cal, N 1 9 More
Fla, N 1 9 More
Fla, S 1 9 More
Minnesota 1 9 More
Miss, S 1 9 More
W Virg, N 1 9 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts

  • The District of Arizona, Southern District of California (San Diego) and Northern District of New York (Syracuse)—with 3 prosecutions—were the most active during May 2013.

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 May 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
McAvoy, Thomas James N. Y., N 3 1 More
Wake, Neil Vincent Arizona 2 2 More
Garcia, Lorenzo F. N Mexico 2 2 More
Carr, James G. Ohio, N 2 2 More
Settle, Benjamin Hale Wash, W 2 2 More
Smith, Deborah M. Alaska 1 6 More
Snow, G. Murray Arizona 1 6 More
Seeborg, Richard G. Cal, N 1 6 More
Hayes, William Q. Cal, S 1 6 More
Benitez, Roger T. Cal, S 1 6 More
Curiel, Gonzalo Paul Cal, S 1 6 More
Vinson, Clyde Roger Fla, N 1 6 More
Williams, Kathleen Mary Fla, S 1 6 More
Doty, David Singleton Minnesota 1 6 More
Gex, Walter J., III Miss, S 1 6 More
Schneider, Michael H., Sr. Texas, E 1 6 More
Love, John D. Texas, E 1 6 More
Bailey, John Preston W Virg, N 1 6 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

All 18 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 18 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judge Thomas James McAvoy in the Northern District of New York (Syracuse) ranked 1st with 3 defendants in environment cases.

  • Judges Neil Vincent Wake in the District of Arizona, Lorenzo F. Garcia in the District of New Mexico, James G. Carr in the Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland) and Benjamin Hale Settle in the Western District of Washington (Seattle) ranked 2nd with 2 defendants in environment cases.

Report Generated: July 22, 2013
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