Remarks about Prepared
Federica, we are grateful for your very kind introduction. And greetings everyone who is joining us today. It’s a great pleasure for me to be part of this robust and fascinating agenda.
As I’ve already mentioned, my name Todd Kim and it is a great privilege to lead the U.S. Department of Justices Environment and Natural Resources Division.
With more than 600 employees, which includes more than 400 attorneys, we are often called the world’s largest environmental law company. The division has a busy docket. It is split roughly between affirmative criminal and civil enforcement on the one hand and defense cases on the other. These cases are brought under 150 federal environmental or natural resource laws laws such as the Superfund cleanup and Clean Air Act. There are also laws governing the management and use of public lands and resources that are in trust for Indian tribes. Our attorneys are familiar with a wide range of issues, statutes and federal agencies. Some of our work is familiar to you, such as the BP/Deepwater Horizon, the Volkswagen defeat device, and the Princess Cruise Lines prosecution.
The Environmental Crimes Section of ENRD is comprised of 36 federal criminal attorneys who are devoted to criminal enforcement. They bring criminal action under the pollution control laws; laws protecting wildlife and animal welfare; and occupational safety & health laws to protect worker safety.
I want to recognize two other leaders from that Section who have done a fantastic job representing ENRD here at INTERPOL. Deborah Harris is the Chief Environmental Crimes Section and has served as Vice Chair of the Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee Advisory Board for the past five years. Joe Poux is the Deputy Chief and Chair of the Crimes Section. He has been with this working group for the past five year.
For us to be able to detect, prevent and disrupt environmental crime, we must have strong enforcement. This will help protect the environment and public health as well as create an equal playing field for businesses who follow the law. For this group, I want to emphasize that enforcement of the criminal provisions in environmental laws is a priority. This includes areas such as pollution and waste crimes.
I believe that vigorous criminal enforcement is crucial to the proper functioning and operation of the overall enforcement system under the environmental statutes. Criminal prosecutions are a powerful and indispensable deterrent to illegal behaviour. They are the sharp end of the spear. A genuine threat of criminal prosecution is possible in U.S. environmental law, where enforcement options can range from administrative action by government agencies to civil enforcement at court to criminal prosecution. This can and will change individuals’ and corporations’ behavior, and they are not deterred by the threat or administrative or civil enforcement.
Our society’s commitment to criminal enforcement reflects our values in protecting the environment and human health from illegal pollution and waste disposal. Criminal enforcement informs the public, and would-be violators, that acts that damage the environment, public health, or place workers in danger are serious. This means that we should pay attention to and have the resources to correct violations of environmental and safety laws. Criminal prosecution is the appropriate response to such harmful acts.
We are aware of the many challenges that enforcement authorities face when bringing charges against pollution crime suspects. As we have seen, pollution and waste crime are frequently transnational offenses that demand the law enforcement agencies from different countries work together to develop strategies to address such crimes and the ever-more-sophisticated techniques of the criminal groups committing them. We are fighting organized criminal organizations that are aware of enforcement gaps and how to exploit them. We are witnessing elaborate schemes of money laundering, fraud and other financial crimes that go hand in hand with environmental violations. We are also seeing an increase in organized criminal organizations’ involvement in illegal trade of hazardous materials. All this is happening globally, regardless of borders.
Effective law enforcement in this space requires strong transnational collaboration, cooperation and communication among and between national and intergovernmental law enforcement bodies such as INTERPOL. It involves aggressively investigating and properly charging crimes of fraud and conspiracy when they are committed in conjunction with environmental violations. These best practices are what the ENRD Department and ENRD prosecutors are committed.
Today’s agenda shows that you will be discussing results of the Pollution Crime Working Groups Operations 30 Days at Sea 3.0. This amazing concept embodies many of these concepts. First and foremost, 300 law enforcement agencies and law enforcement agencies representing 67 countries participated in the operation. This is an encouraging example of international cooperation. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider that the operation was conducted in the midst a global pandemic.
This cooperation clearly paid off, with over 38,000 inspections uncovering 5,607 violations in just over one year. However, The operation’s breadth is a reason to be proud. It also reflects the scale of the problem of marine polluting vessels and other offshore facilities. We also see illegal discharges from land-based sources that affect coastal and river environments. And we see waste trafficking through our ports.
The report was encouraging for me as a supervisor of prosecutors. It showed that of the cases with details available, more than nine hundred resulted law enforcement actions. These included arrests, seizures, and fines. The report proves that the Pollution Crime Working Groups really work and is not just a talking point.
I can personally attest to the practical benefits of these operations. Operation 30 Days of Action 2018, the first PCWG operation, was launched in 2018. It has since grown into a major enforcement initiative to intercept illegal pesticides that were smuggled into the United States primarily for the cultivation of marijuana. ENRD and the U.S. worked together with federal partners, Homeland Security Investigations and Environmental Protection Agency. The Southern District Attorneys Office of California has charged more than 50 people, obtained numerous felony and misdemeanor pleas, convictions, and seized large quantities of pesticides that are prohibited for sale or distribution in the United States. This initiative continues today.
The report also highlights corporate actors, particularly in the area of vessel polluting. According to the report, companies are still the most suspect in cases of marine pollution-related criminality. This is particularly interesting given the report’s findings that 37% of offenses were deliberate and 34% were the result of negligence.
Two ships were caught by the U.S. Coast Guard last year for illegally dumping bilge water overboard. The Coast Guard was also provided with falsified records that indicated that they had been properly managing their waste. Both the vessel operator, as well as the responsible officers of the ships were referred both to the Crimes Section.
It is worth noting, last but not least that the most recent 30 Days at Sea operation continued the trend and reaffirmed the fact that marine pollution is rarely a singular crime or confined to violations of environmental laws. It often intersects with two types of crime. It may also be linked to other environmental violations such as illegal fishing, illegal mining or pollution of other media. This is second, and more common, marine pollution crimes are often committed alongside other serious offenses like document fraud, financial crime or even violent offenses.
INTERPOL, the Pollution Crime Working Group, and the Department of Justice should be commended for such a great report and a productive operation. The report’s findings offer much to be learned and the department will continue supporting the objectives of this operation.
I will conclude by highlighting the Biden Administration’s top priorities, which are crucial to the effective enforcement and promotion of pollution control laws. Enforcement is fundamentally about ensuring that certain public values are realized and that the public health and public goods are protected. This is especially true for enforcement efforts to mitigate climate impacts and ensure environmental justice.
President Biden issued Executive Order 14008, Tackling Climate Crisis at Home, and Abroad. He called on all U.S. agencies to hold polluters responsible and to take bold, progressive steps to address the climate crisis.
Many enforcement cases handled by the division are directly related to these objectives. Here are some examples:
- Cases directly enforcing violations of regulations governing greenhouse gases emissions
- Protecting carbon sinks through cases such as illegal log prosecutions or vessel pollution cases.
- These cases protect the integrity and security of renewable energy programs by pursuing fraud or similar violations that weaken them.
I wanted to emphasize a new category in enforcement work that promises further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It is specifically hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. This greenhouse gas is used in refrigerators as well as air conditioners and foams. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a regulation in September creating a landmark climate program that will reduce the production and consumption HFCs by 85% from baseline levels within the next fifteen years. Along with the regulatory phasedown program, Administration has announced plans for increased enforcement to prevent illegal trade, production use, and sale HFCs. A task force of interagency leaders from EPA, DHS and other departments has been established. This task force will focus on enforcing import restriction to stop illegal trade in these substances. ENRD will collaborate with its law enforcement partners, EPA and DHS, to support the development of and prosecutions of cases developed by these agencies.
Since 2015’s HFC phaseout, Europe has been fighting this illegal trade vigorously. The United States, like the EU, wants to ensure that illegal trade does not undermine the climate benefits of this phaseout. It also doesn’t disadvantage companies who comply with the new requirements or invest in HFC-free alternatives. We look forward for the possibility that the US’s enforcement efforts can benefit from the lessons of other regions and the EU’s experience.
ENRD is also focused on achieving the Executive Order 14008 objectives for environmental justice. While this term is not universally recognized, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has defined it as the fair treatment of all people and meaningful participation in the development, enforcement, and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.
President Biden’s Executive Order orders the department to coordinate its efforts with EPA, our agency partners, and to develop a comprehensive environment justice enforcement strategy. . . To provide timely remedies for systemic pollutions and environmental violations as well as injury to natural resource. It is being developed and will be something that environmental law and pollution control laws will want you to consider when it is released.
But we don’t wait for that. My division is conscious that there are communities, including those of color and those with low income, that are disproportionately impacted by illegal pollution, environmental hazards and damages. These communities have struggled in the past to get their concerns addressed. We are working hard on resolving this issue. My division is particularly concerned with cases where a defendant violates criminal or civil law in a manner that involves environmental justice and the climate crisis.
Thank you for allowing me to address you this morning. I’m glad to share some of the important issues with you. I wish you a productive and productive day.