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Failing to report a hazardous leak can lead to criminal penalties

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | Environmental Offenses

Life on Earth wouldn’t be possible without the abundant water that surrounds it. Experts have projected that global water use will increase by up to 50% above current levels during the next 20 years.

However, water is so easily polluted and ruined. Tankers, oil rigs, and similar structures can cause spills that poison the ocean and threaten immediate marine wildlife.

The federal government takes chemical discharges on the open sea very seriously. While it allows a controlled amount of waste discharge, it’s very strict regarding hazardous chemical spills. The government requires immediate reporting of spills so that the relevant agencies can act fast to contain them. A company or administrative head who doesn’t report an accidental chemical release can face penalties.

Notification requirements

According to federal law, any person in charge of an offshore/onshore facility or vessel must at once report knowledge of a chemical release into the water to the National Response Center. In turn, it’s the National Response Center that conveys the notification to all appropriate government agencies and the governor of the state where the release occurred.

Failure to notify the agency or sending a chemical release notification with false or misleading information commits an offense.

The penalties for failure to report, false reporting

If a person in charge of a vessel or facility that caused the release failed to report it – or submitted a false report – they can face criminal charges for perjury. They will have to pay fines or face up to three years of imprisonment on conviction.

On top of the federal and potential civil penalties the person faces for failing to submit a proper report, the President can also assess an additional civil penalty of up to $25,000 per instance of violation. This means that if the administrative head of a vessel/facility fails to submit a proper chemical release report to multiple agencies, they can face separate fines for each.

All types of chemical spills on open water must be reported. Failure to notify the relevant agencies will result in penalties, not to mention civil action over the environmental damage caused. Those who face charges shouldn’t underestimate the accusations. Because criminal penalties await them, they should consider consulting with an experienced legal professional.