Environmental Criminals

Environmental Criminals – Beware!

Those even thinking about (or more likely, not thinking) committing environmental crimes in Texas should be apprised – April 8-12 is Environmental Crime Prevention Week, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is holding a training conference at Houston Community College to celebrate a full decade of investigating and prosecuting criminal violations of state and federal environmental laws.

In case you did not know it, Texas is a national leader (TxCEQ says) in going after environmental bad guys, thanks to the work of the Texas Environmental Crime Task Force. Since its inception in 1991, the task force has helped secure convictions of 113 individuals and 24 corporations for 190 felonies and 86 misdemeanors. These convictions have included a total of 118 years in prison and over $34 million in criminal and civil penalties. The most common environmental crimes involve illegal dumping of septic waste, household garbage, used motor oil, auto batteries, and barrels of hazardous waste.

The training conference boasts as sponsors the Office of the Governor, the Southern Environmental Enforcement Network (SEEN), the Texas Environmental Enforcement Task Force, Keep Houston Beautiful, Keep Texas Beautiful, the Houston Police Department, Houston Community College, and TxCEQ itself. There will even be a reading of a message from the President on the importance of stopping environmental crimes.

Features at the event will include field demonstrations of the most common types of illegal fires – tire, wire, and trash burning. There will also be courses on hazardous waste, illegal tire burning, politics of enforcement, and criminal provisions of environmental crime. Among the speakers are Barbara Foreman, manager of TxCEQ’s special investigations unit; John Ockels, Ph.D., of the Texoma Council of Governments and the Texas Environmental Law Enforcement Association; Roger Haseman, Harris County Assistant District Attorney; and John Bradford, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Texas.

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