Delaware urges prison for polluters

"Aquathin OP-ED Commentary"

     In the words of TV newscaster Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch in the classic 1976 movie Network,  "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!'", the State of Delaware is declaring war on polluters. This ladies and gentlemen, is a sign of things to come...and long overdue.


Delaware urges prison for polluters


     WASHINGTON -- Delaware's top environment official have urged a Senate panel to strengthen criminal laws to make it easier to hold corporate leaders personally responsible for violating clean air, clean water and hazardous waste laws.  Fines are not enough to stop corporate polluters, who often find it cheaper to pay the penalty than to stop fouling the air or water, said Nicholas A. Di Pasquale, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Corporate executives need to face jail time, which they rarely do now, he said.

"A plant manager or corporate officer who knows he or she could be held personally liable and jailed in the event of a violation will be much more likely to ensure that maintenance and repairs are performed and conditions are corrected," Di Pasquale told a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Di Pasquale was invited to testify by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. Di Pasquale, who was appointed to his post in 1999 by former Gov. Tom Carper, recently announced week he was resigning, effective Sept. 20, to work on environmental issues at the regional and national level.

Biden agreed with Di Pasquale that national environmental laws should be given more teeth.  "We need to send polluters a loud, clear message: If you break the law and pollute the environment, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Biden said. "And we will put you in jail for your crimes."

Ray Clatworthy, a Dover Republican who is running against Biden for the Senate this year, said, "Any corporate leader who breaks the law should be held accountable."  Biden said budget cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency have led to a drop in the criminal cases it has prosecuted. Last year, the agency netted $95 million in fines, down from 2000's $122 million, he said.  From 1986 to 2000, the federal agency's funding for state environmental programs dropped more than 4 percent, Di Pasquale said. At the same time, state funding increased by 65 percent. States now spend almost twice as much as the EPA on the environment, he said.

Thomas Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for the environment division, said the Bush administration has made strong enforcement of environmental laws a top priority. However, he agreed with Biden that it would help to strengthen existing laws to allow prosecution of people who attempt to break the law.

Currently, prosecutors must wait until environmental damage has been done.  "We will continue to press forward in this area to ensure the protection of all Americans and of our environment," Sansonetti said.

The Bush administration has proposed a $300 million cut in the EPA's budget for 2003. The agency's enforcement staff could be cut by as many as 200 employees, Biden said.


Think Aquathin...AquathinK!!

Edited from Tech Bank 9/5/02