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Publication Federal Enforcement of Environmental Laws, 1997

John Scalia, Bureau of Justice Statistics

November 29, 1999    NCJ 175686

Provides data on defendants charged in 1997 with criminal or civil violation of Federal law protecting the environment from excessive and unnecessary discharge of hazardous substances and other pollutants or law protecting and conserving the Nation's natural resources and wildlife. Many environmental laws provide for both criminal and civil penalties. The report also provides data on cases brought in U.S. district courts by private parties to enforce Federal environmental standards.


  • More than a quarter of the 952 suspects investigated were identified as organizations.
  • Overall, U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute about half of those investigated -- 70% of organizations and 40% of individuals.
  • Because many environmental statutes contain civil penalties, U.S. attorneys can dispose of an environmental matter through civil litigation. Eleven percent of criminal referrals were declined for prosecution in favor of a civil action.
  • During 1997, 446 defendants were charged with a criminal environmental violation 47% for the unlawful emission of a hazardous substance or other pollutant and 53% for a wildlife violation.

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