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Environmental Crime - Environmental Enforcement Agencies

epa laws law regulations

Congress passes environmental laws to protect the environment. Once a law is passed, it must be put into action. Laws like these do not contain details of how to carry out day-to-day enforcement. For example, a law may prohibit dumping hazardous wastes into rivers, but not specify which wastes, how much, which rivers, and so on. Instead Congress creates and authorizes government agencies to write specific regulations about each of these laws.

A hazardous waste team from the EPA takes test samples from storage drums at an abandoned factory. (© Bettmann/Corbis)

The EPA creates regulations for environmental legislation and is responsible for enforcing these regulations. Its criminal enforcement program identifies and apprehends offenders, then assists prosecutors in convicting them. The criminal enforcement program employs federal agents trained in all aspects of environmental crime. EPA agents have full law enforcement authority to investigate and arrest offenders.

Environmental specialists such as attorneys, forensic (applying medical studies to crime investigation) scientists, engineers, and training specialists are all part of the EPA enforcement team. Over forty regional and area offices are located across the nation. The EPA officials at these offices work closely with other federal (Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation), state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes.

The EPA maintains training centers in Washington, D.C., and Denver, Colorado, as well as an environmental forensic laboratory in Denver. The U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes cases turned over by the EPA.

The Environmental and Natural Resources Division within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) oversees environmental crime cases. The Environmental Crimes Section prosecutes corporations and individuals who violate environmental laws. Its activities show corporations and the public that environmental crime in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century is taken seriously and will be prosecuted. The Environmental Crimes Section, EPA, and FBI work together to convict environmental criminals.

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