Ensuring compliance with federal and state environmental laws and deterring future offenses can require the application of criminal enforcement tools. Yet we have a limited understanding of how the criminal enforcement of environmental laws has progressed historically in The Empire State. To explore this phenomenon, we undertake content analysis of federal prosecution summaries for all environmental crime prosecutions stemming from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criminal investigations from 1983 to 2019. We explore which federal environmental laws were violated, determine which charging statutes were used, analyze sentencing patterns, and illustrate the broader themes that emerge in such prosecutions over 37 years. Our findings show that total penalties assessed to all defendants included some $264 million in monetary penalties, almost 7,000 months of probation, and 4,757 months of incarceration. We find that 26 percent of prosecutions center on air pollution crimes, 18 percent on water pollution crimes, 12 percent on hazardous waste crimes, and 18 percent on state-level offenses. We conclude with forward-looking ways to improve the criminal enforcement of environmental laws, including enhancing resources, community policing, and public salience.
Recommended CitationJoshua Ozymy and Melissa Jarrell Ozymy, Green Crimes in the Empire State: Analyzing the Criminal Enforcement of Environmental Law in New York, 39 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 257 (2022)
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pelr/vol39/iss1/9