The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice are tasked with the investigation and prosecution of hazardous waste crimes occurring under the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). For criminal sanctions to be effective, the probability of detection and severity of punishment must be significant enough to raise the cost to benefit ratio to deter environmental crimes. While research examines sanctioning under RCRA, little work examines the plausibility of the deterrent effect of criminal sanctions. Through content analysis of all environmental crime prosecutions resulting from EPA criminal investigations, 1983-2019, we explore the probability of detection and prosecution under RCRA. Results show the probability of detection and prosecution to be sub-optimal. We conclude by offering three remedies for improving the plausibility of deterrence for future RCRA crimes including enhancing enforcement resources, developing a greater community policing effort, and raising the profile and salience of criminal enforcement activities.
Ozymy, Dr. Joshua & Jarrell, Dr. Melissa L. (2021) “Does the Criminal Enforcement of Federal Environmental Law Deter Environmental Crime? The Case of The U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act,” Environmental and Earth Law Journal (EELJ): Vol. 11 : Iss. 1 , Article 4.
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