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Pollution violations: Examples, fines and penalties

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2023 | Environmental Offenses

In a world striving for cleaner air, there’s good news and bad news. The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report reveals that fewer Americans are now breathing unhealthy air. Yet, Western states, especially California, are grappling with intense short-term spikes in pollution, fueled by wildfires and other factors.

According to the report, short-term particle pollution has reached a concerning high. This type of pollution comprises tiny particles from various sources. Most of which come from large companies’ factories and power plants. If accused of this crime, businesses may be in for a tricky legal battle that can significantly impact their operations.

Common pollution violation scenarios

While progress is being made, we can’t ignore the dark side of pollution. Some companies still engage in activities that harm the environment and jeopardize public health. Consider the following scenarios:

  • A waste management company unlawfully ships containers of hazardous materials overseas without obtaining the required approvals.
  • A construction company discharges untreated wastewater from its site directly into a nearby river.
  • A renovation contractor removes asbestos-containing materials from a building without using proper containment procedures and disposes of them in a regular landfill.
  • A business imports banned pesticides from another country and sells them on the black market.

These are just a glimpse of the violations directly impacting our environment. Environmental crimes go beyond the obvious. Mail or wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering are also federal environmental crimes.

The price to pay

California takes no prisoners when it comes to safeguarding its natural resources and public health. Violators face strict fines and penalties ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. The amount depends on the severity of the violation, the extent of harm caused and the company’s compliance history.

In severe cases, intentional or gross negligence can lead to criminal prosecution. If executives are involved, they may find themselves facing heftier fines and even imprisonment. They may also bear the costs of cleaning up their mess. This can have a severe impact on their businesses because expenses for remediation efforts, environmental restoration and ongoing monitoring can escalate rapidly.

Seeking defense

Facing environmental crime accusations poses great risks to any business. To fight the accusation effectively, they must arm themselves with legal experts. They must know their charges inside out and present a strong defense to protect their rights and reputation.