EPA Action: Agency to take part in White House cooperative conservation conference
In other news: 60 health care facilities honored for environmental innovation; $3.2M in small business awards available for new environmental technologies; 15 groups, individuals to be honored for leadership in protecting children; FY2005 federal drinking water funds available; EPA cites 3M, Motorola, Pfizer, others, for environmental progress; NDWAC's Water Security Working Group meeting April 18-20; Evergreen to pay $25M, largest-ever penalty for concealing vessel pollution...
Other recent agency developments below:
60 health care institutions honored for environmental innovation;
$3.2M in small business awards for new environmental technologies;
15 groups, individuals to be honored for leadership in protecting children;
Pa. firm, president sentenced in Clean Water Act case;
FY2005 federal drinking water funds available
EPA cites 3M, Motorola, Pfizer, others, for environmental progress
Ship's engineer sentenced for obstruction of justice;
Tennessee drinking water plant operator pleads guilty
NDWAC's Water Security Working Group meeting April 18-20
Evergreen to pay $25M, largest-ever penalty for concealing vessel pollution
Shipping magnate sentenced for illegal dumping of tanker waste oil
EPA to participate in White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation
WASHINGTON, DC, April 15, 2005 -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Stephen L. Johnson will participate as a keynote speaker at the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation (WHCCC). This conference will convene in St. Louis, Mo., from August 29-31, to advance President Bush's vision for cooperative conservation defined in an Executive Order issued on Aug. 26, 2004. Johnson will highlight the EPA's goal of continuing to build on the four cornerstones of new technologies, market incentives, collaborative networks, and results to achieve greater gains in environmental protection.
The WHCCC seeks to broaden cooperative conservation with state, tribal and local governments, communities, private for profit and non-profit organizations, and private citizens and to enhance and integrate public and private land stewardship. The conference will bring together interested participants and decision makers who can advance cooperative conservation and identify ideas for future conservation and environmental policies and initiatives. Participants will be encouraged to exchange information that will build successful partnerships and institutionalize cooperative conservation to enhance on-the-ground conservation results and progress.
The Bush Administration announced that invitations to the 2005 WHCCC have been distributed to a broad cross-section of private individuals; agricultural and forestry organizations; local community groups; businesses; outdoor organizations, conservation groups; local, state and tribal governments; heritage groups; philanthropic foundations; members of Congress and state governors. Federal participants include the Environmental Protection Agency, Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and the Interior, as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Current EPA programs such as watershed protection, Brownfields redevelopment, and the Great Lakes Legacy Program are built upon effective community involvement and partnerships to promote the conservation of our nation's resources. EPA looks forward to furthering our mission to protect human health and the environment by exchanging ideas and best practices on cooperative conservation.
The text of President Bush's Executive Order can be viewed at: www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/08/20040826-11.html.
For more information about the Cooperative Conservation Conference, go to: www.conservation.ceq.gov.
Following are other agency developments that may interest you:
Sixty health care institutions honored for environmental innovation
WASHINGTON, DC, April 14, 2005 -- The EPA, the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the American Nurses Association (ANA) presented the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) annual Environmental Leadership Awards to 60 health care institutions across the country for outstanding achievement in environmental innovation. The award recipients were recognized at the 2005 National Environmental Partnership Summit in Chicago.
H2E is a joint project of the EPA, AHA, ANA and Health Care Without Harm, and its goals are to eliminate the use of mercury in healthcare; to cut health care waste; and to phase out the use of hazardous substances and persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic chemicals in the health care sector.
Eight institutions were recognized as Environmental Leaders for their exceptional programs to reduce waste, virtually eliminate mercury and minimize the use of toxic products and practices in their facilities. Fifty-two health care institutions received Partners and Champions for Change Awards.
This year's Environmental Leaders Award winners include: Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Oakland, Calif.; Bronson Methodist Hospital, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, N.H.; Foote Health System, Jackson, Mich.; Kaiser Permanente Hawaii Region, Honolulu, Hawaii; Sparrow Health System, Lansing, Mich.; St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, Mich.; and the University of Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers, Ann Arbor, Mich.
In addition, EPA, in partnership with H2E, unveiled at this week's meeting a one-stop Web site for pollution prevention best practices and compliance assistance resources -- the first of its kind. Information on this Compliance Assistance Center is available at: www.hercenter.org.
More information on this week's National Environmental Partnership Summit, hosted by EPA, the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable and Performance Track Participants Association, can be found at: www.epa.gov/Compliance/assistance/networking/forum/index.html.
Additional information on the complete list of award winners and the H2E program can be found at: www.h2e-online.org.
$3.2 million in Small Business Awards for New Environmental Technologies
The EPA today announced the award of more than $3.2 million to 14 small companies under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The companies will commercialize their newly developed technologies for control and monitoring of air emissions, pollution prevention, hazardous waste treatment, and homeland security. The agency's SBIR program offers critical financial support to small businesses creating innovative environmental technologies. Besides benefitting the environment, the program generates jobs and fosters economic growth, as small businesses employ 53% of the U.S. work force.
Seven companies will bring to market new air pollution technologies to monitor and control emissions. Three companies will use the award for new pollution prevention technologies, including "green technologies" that eliminate the use of older, hazardous chemicals in manufacturing processes such as coating steel and circuit board plating. Four companies will develop technologies related to stormwater control, waste management, and homeland security. Water projects include protecting stream wildlife from storm surges, and bioremediation -- the use of natural plants to clean up contaminated waste streams.
The EPA is one of 12 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR Program, enacted in 1982 to strengthen the role of small businesses in federal research and development. There are about 22 million small businesses in the United States. To participate in SBIR, a small business must have fewer than 500 employees and at least 51% of the business must be owned by U.S. citizens. More information about these research projects can be found at: www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir/05phase2. To learn more about EPA's SBIR program, go to: www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir.
In a new procurement, the agency will accept proposals for the development of new environmental technologies under the SBIR program. It anticipates the award of about $2.8 million in firm, fixed-price contracts of about $70,000 each. The request for applications will close on May 25, 2005. To learn more, see: http://es.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2005/2005_sbir_phase1.html.
15 Organizations, Individuals to be Honored for Leadership in Protecting Children
The EPA is honoring 15 organizations and individuals for their outstanding leadership in protecting children from environmental risks. The recipients will be recognized at the First Annual Children's Environmental Health Excellence Awards Ceremony on April 21 in Washington, D.C. EPA has steadily increased its efforts on protecting infants and children, who are more susceptible than adults to some environmental risks, because their nervous, immune, digestive and other systems are still developing.
This year's 15 winners demonstrate strong commitment to children's environmental health. The recipients include an intervention program in the Seattle area that showed that 90% of the families visited made behavioral changes and 87% of these families felt those changes improved their children's health and reduced asthma episodes; a Childhood Lead Action Project in Rhode Island where state-wide lead poisoning rates have dropped from 18% in 1994 to just 3% in 2003. Also included is a program in North Carolina where school buses were fitted with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) and significantly reduced emissions with a 20% decrease in diesel particulate matter, a 20% decrease in carbon monoxide and a 40% decrease in unburned hydrocarbons.
The Children's Environmental Health Awards are designed to increase awareness, stimulate activity and recognize efforts that protect children from environmental health risks at the local, regional, national and international level. Excellence and Recognition are the two levels of awards. The excellence level is a competitive award for groups or individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in protecting children from environmental health risks. The recognition level is for groups or individuals who have demonstrated commitment to protecting children from environmental health risks. EPA is issuing 15 excellence awards and 113 recognition awards.
For a complete list of the award recipients and a description of their programs, go to: http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/2005_CEH_Awards.htm.
Enforcement Wrap-up for the Week of April 14, 2005
Pennsylvania Company President and Firm Sentenced in Clean Water Act Case: BEF Corp. of Allentown, Pa.; and BEF's founder and president, Elward Brewer of Englewood, Fla.; were both sentenced on April 1 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Allentown, Pa., for violating the Clean Water Act by discharging heavy metal-laden acidic waste water into sewers operated by the City of Bethlehem, Pa., and the City of Allentown, Pa. In addition, BEF also pleaded guilty to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and to making false statement to the government. BEF and Brewer were sentenced to jointly pay a $700,000 penalty, including a $50,000 Supplemental Environmental Project to the Wildlands Conservancy. BEF was also ordered to serve a five year period of probation. Elward Brewer was additionally sentenced to six months' house arrest, 36 months of supervised release, and 160 hours of community service in an environmental activity. BEF buys used one-hour photo processing machines, refurbishes them and then resells them throughout the world. During the refurbishing process, BEF generated silver, lead, and chromium laden wastes and acidic wastes which were illegally discharged to the sewers. The other charges arose from BEF's illegal exportation of goods to Iran, and from BEF's practice of discounting the fair market value of its photo labs on Shippers' Export Declarations to help its international customers avoid paying import duties. Unlawfully disposing of heavy metal laden and acidic waste water into sewers can damage sewage treatment equipment and can interfere with the proper treatment of sewage by sewage treatment facilities. The case was investigated by the Philadelphia Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Custom's Enforcement, the U.S. Commerce Department's Office of Export Enforcement, and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Investigative assistance was provided by EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center and the Waste Water Treatment Departments of the Borough of Catasauqua, the City of Bethlehem, South Whitehall Township, and the City of Allentown, Pa. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia.
WaterNews: FY 2005 Drinking Water Funds Available
WASHINGTON, DC, April 12, 2005 -- The EPA has announced the availability of FY 2005 congressional appropriations funds for the Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) programs. These programs provide states, territories, and tribes with resources to protect the water of more than 270 million people.
The agency has made $99,745,600 in PWSS grant funds available to help states, territories, and tribes support drinking water programs. Of that amount, it's reserving $6,419,900 in funding for tribes and Alaska Native Villages. It has also made available $843,200,000 in funds to support DWSRF programs, which provide states with financing for public water system infrastructure improvements. Since the program began in 1997, states have provided nearly $8 billion in low interest loans to public water systems within their states.
States, territories, and tribes may apply for funding through their EPA Regional Offices. Additional information about the PWSS and DWSRF programs, including the amount of grant funding available to each state, can be found at:
EPA Cites 3M, Motorola, Pfizer Facilities, Others, for Environmental Progress Beyond Current Regulatory Requirements
WASHINGTON, DC, April 8, 2005 -- The EPA will present national awards in Chicago next Tuesday for exemplary environmental outreach and performance to nine members of its National Environmental Performance Track program. EPA will also welcome 73 new Performance Track members and honor the program's first three Corporate Leaders.
"By definition, Performance Track members are among the nation's top environmental performers, and we are pleased to welcome the 73 new members to the program," said Stephanie Daigle, EPA acting associate administrator for Policy, Economics and Innovation. "The facilities and companies that we will recognize at this event demonstrated truly outstanding environmental results over the last two years."
EPA is honoring Performance Track members' achievements with the following awards and recognition:
Environmental Performance Awards
These awards will be presented to the following four facilities that have demonstrated especially outstanding performance:
-- 3M, Nevada, Mo.
-- Durango-McKinley Paper Company, Prewitt, N.M.
-- Ideal Jacobs Corp., Maplewood, N.J.
-- Rohm and Haas, La Mirada, Calif.
These awards recognize the following members for extraordinary efforts in communicating the benefits of membership in Performance Track to their employees and other facilities:
-- 3M ESPE Dental Products, Irvine, Calif.
-- International Paper, Franklin, Va.
-- Motorola GTSS Ocotillo, Chandler, Ariz.
-- Pfizer Inc., Terre Haute, Ind.
-- 3M Corp., headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. (which will receive the first corporate-level Performance Track Director's Award for Outreach within and outside the company)
Performance Track Corporate Leaders
Although Performance Track has historically been a facility-based program, EPA added a Corporate Leader designation to recognize companies that have multiple facilities in Performance Track and that demonstrate an exceptional corporate-wide commitment to environmental stewardship and continuous improvement.
-- Baxter Healthcare Corp., headquartered in Deerfield, Ill.;
-- Johnson & Johnson, headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J.;
-- Rockwell Collins, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
At the Chicago ceremony, EPA's New England Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney will unveil the "2005 Performance Track Progress Report: Growth and Renewal," a detailed view of the program and its members' achievements. Since the program's inception, Performance Track members have reduced their water use by more than 1.3 billion gallons, cut their generation of solid waste by nearly 600,000 tons, and decreased their energy use by more than 8.4 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs), enough to power more than 80,600 homes for a year.
The April 12 ceremony, taking place at the Fairmont Hotel, is being held in conjunction with the 2005 National Environmental Partnership Summit, a merger of the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable Spring Conference, the National Compliance Assistance Providers' Forum, and the Performance Track Participants' Association's annual meeting. For information on the Summit and the sponsoring organizations, visit: www.environmentalsummit.org.
With the addition of the new members, Performance Track now has 351 facilities in 46 states and Puerto Rico. More information about the program is available at: www.epa.gov/performancetrack/.
Acting EPA Administrator Cancels Research Study on Children and Pesticides
WASHINGTON, DC, April 8, 2005 -- Statement by Stephen L. Johnson, Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency:
"On April 8, 2005, I cancelled the Children's Health Environmental Exposure Research Study.
The Children's Health Environmental Exposure Research Study was designed to fill critical data gaps in our understanding of how children may be exposed to pesticides (such as bug spray) and chemicals currently used in households. Information from the study was intended to help EPA better protect children. EPA will continue to pursue the goal of protecting children's health.
Last fall, in light of questions about the study design, I directed that all work on the study stop immediately and requested an independent review. Since that time, many misrepresentations about the study have been made. EPA senior scientists have briefed me on the impact these misrepresentations have had on the ability to proceed with the study.
I have concluded that the study cannot go forward, regardless of the outcome of the independent review. EPA must conduct quality, credible research in an atmosphere absent of gross misrepresentation and controversy.
As a scientist and a 24-year employee of the EPA, I have a deep passion for the Agency's mission to protect human health and the environment. Continual review and reassessment is a fundamental aspect of scientific progress, and I am committed to ensuring that EPA's research is based on sound science with the highest ethical standards."
For background on why this program was cancelled, see: "EPA Scraps Controversial Pesticide Testing Program".
For more information on the Children's Health Environmental Exposure Research Study, see: www.epa.gov/cheers/.
Enforcement Wrap-up for Week of April 8, 2005
Ship's Engineer Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice: Edgardo Guinto of the Philippines, Chief Engineer of the Motor Vessel Katerina, was sentenced on March 24 to serve eight months in prison by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles for his conviction on charges of obstructing justice by concealing an oil pollution control system bypass pipe from federal investigators. The defendant admitted that he allowed the system to be bypassed, instructed crew members to remove and conceal the bypass pipe when the ship came into Long Beach Harbor and admitted that he made fraudulent entries in the ship's Oil Record Book. The pipe had been used to illegally discharge oil into the Pacific Ocean. Discharging untreated oily bilge water into the Pacific can harm fish and other aquatic life. The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office, the Coast Guard's Investigative Service and the Los Angeles Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. It was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
Tennessee Drinking Water Plant Operator Pleads Guilty: On March 21, Danny Hurd, former drinking water plant operator for the First Utility District of Hawkins County, Tenn., pleaded guilty to falsifying drinking water measurements. The plea states that from early 2000 to late 2002 the defendant falsified chlorine measurements of drinking water samples to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Falsifying drinking water reports makes it difficult for regulators to determine if the drinking water delivered to households is safe for consumption. The defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The case was investigated by the Knoxville, Tenn., Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Greenville, Tenn.
National Drinking Water Advisory Council's Water Security Working Group Meeting Announcement
CRYSTAL CITY, VA, April 6, 2005 -- The EPA announces the fifth public meeting of the Water Security Working Group (WSWG) of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC), which was established under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The purpose of this meeting is to provide an opportunity for the WSWG members to continue deliberations on the following topics: 1) Features of active and effective security programs for drinking water and wastewater utilities (water sector); 2) incentives to encourage broad adoption of active and effective security programs in the water sector; and 3) measures of the performance of water security programs. The focus of the meeting will be on review of the WSWG's draft report and recommendations. The meeting will be open to the public and an opportunity for public comment will be provided. The WSWG findings and recommendations will be provided to the NDWAC for their consideration. The WSWG anticipates providing findings and recommendations to the NDWAC in spring 2005.
The WSWG meeting is April 18-20, 2005, in Crystal City, VA, in the Washington, DC area. It will take place at the Hilton Crystal City in the Decatur Room on April 18 and April 19 and in Chesapeake Hall on April 20.
Interested participants from the public should contact the EPA's Marc Santora
at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-564-1597 to receive additional details.
This is the final planned meeting of the WSWG.
Evergreen to Pay Largest-Ever Penalty for Concealing Vessel Pollution, Container Shipping Company to Pay $25 Million
WASHINGTON, DC, April 4, 2005 -- The U.S. Attorneys from five judicial districts with major ports today announced criminal charges against Evergreen International S.A., one of many Evergreen-related companies involved in the container ship business. Under the terms of a plea agreement, Evergreen will pay $25 million, the largest-ever amount for a case involving deliberate vessel pollution, and plead guilty to felony charges brought in Los Angeles; Newark, N.J.; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Charleston, S.C.
Evergreen pleaded guilty today to 24 felony counts and one misdemeanor five counts from each federal district involved in the case for concealing the deliberate, illegal discharge of waste oil and for a negligent discharge in the Columbia River. The charges include making false statements, obstruction of Coast Guard inspections, failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book, and one negligent violation of the Clean Water Act relating to the discharge in the Columbia River. Following the guilty pleas, U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. ordered the company to pay $25 million to be divided equally among the five judicial districts involved. Of this amount, $10 million will be directed to environmental community service projects in each district.
"The deliberate and purposeful pollution of our oceans and America's waterways must be met with strict enforcement," said Deputy Attorney General James Comey. "This penalty has secured justice against Evergreen and provided a victory for all Americans who enjoy and respect our environment. I want to thank the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section for their hard work and the U.S. Attorneys from the Central District of California, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina and the Western District of Washington, along with the EPA and Coast Guard whose efforts made this agreement possible."
Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by an oil water separator a required pollution prevention device. The law also requires all overboard discharges be recorded in an Oil Record Book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard. In May 2001, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered Evergreen was using bypass pipes aboard their ships to illegally discharge waste oil into the ocean without treating it in an oil-water separator. The discharge of oil and other toxic petroleum-related wastes can cause significant harm to marine life.
The filing of charges in each district was announced today by James Comey, Deputy Attorney General; Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Department of Justice; Thomas V. Skinner, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance for the EPA; Debra W. Yang, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California; Christopher J. Christie, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey; Karin J. Immergut, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon; Jonathan S. Gasser, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina; John McKay, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington; and Rear Admiral Thomas H. Gilmour, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security and Environmental Protection, U.S. Coast Guard.
The investigation of Evergreen ships and companies began on March 4, 2001 after the discovery of about 500 gallons of oil in the Columbia River near Kalama, Washington. Through vessel traffic reports and oil samples, the U.S. Coast Guard traced the spill to the Ever Group, a container vessel managed by Evergreen Marine (Taiwan) Ltd., which had negligently discharged the oil. On May 14, 2001, the Washington State Department of Ecology (WDOE) discovered a bypass pipe used by crew members on another Evergreen vessel, called the Ever Given, to illegally discharge waste oil into the ocean.
The violations on these two vessels led the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct "Priority One" inspections of other vessels owned, operated, or affiliated with Evergreen in various United States ports. The federal investigation was conducted with the assistance of the WDOE as well as the EPA's Criminal Investigations Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and revealed that at least seven Evergreen ships (Ever Group, Ever Given, Ever Dainty, Ever Refine, Ever Gleeful, Ever Laurel, and Ever Reward) regularly and routinely used bypass equipment to discharge oily waste and sludge oil while circumventing required pollution prevention equipment and concealing the discharges in fictitious logs which it knew were inspected regularly by the Coast Guard. In a factual statement filed by the court, Evergreen admitted that it knew the fictitious logs were regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.
"Evergreen illegally discharged waste oil and then attempted to conceal its actions, thereby compounding its crimes," said Thomas V. Skinner, EPA's Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This guilty plea sends a clear and strong message to shipping companies: they will pay a heavy price if they intentionally violate our nation's environmental laws."
According to a detailed factual statement filed in court and which Evergreen has admitted is accurate:
-- During a 3-1/2 year period, it discharged waste oil and sludge through bypass equipment and without the use of required pollution prevention equipment from certain ships, with the knowledge that this pollution violated international law;
-- It concealed illegal discharges in order to prevent discovery by the U.S. Coast Guard through methods that included creating fictitious Oil Record Books and destroying a bypass pipe in anticipation of a Coast Guard inspection;
-- It made false statements to the Coast Guard about the operation of the oily water separator and certain engine room officers instructed crew members that if questioned by the Coast Guard they should deny any knowledge of such unlawful activities.
"Cheating and deceiving is no way to conduct business, and the actions of Evergreen undermined the hard work of every honest operator that complies with these laws each day," said Admiral Gilmour. "In order to protect our waters and maintain fair competition, the Coast Guard will continue to focus enforcement actions toward those who intentionally pollute and deliberately lie to the United States authorities to conceal their criminal behavior."
Four related Evergreen companies Evergreen Marine (Taiwan), Evergreen America, Greencompass Marine, S.A., and Evergreen International, S.A. will be bound by a detailed Environmental Compliance Plan to prevent future violations as a condition of probation. Under the terms of the proposed plan, Evergreen will need to secure every overboard valve and flange with numbered tags and make other hardware changes to make bypassing more difficult. The compliance plan also requires that Evergreen ships visiting the United States be audited by an outside firm which will be reviewed by a special court appointed monitor.
Assistant Attorney General Sansonetti and U.S. Attorneys Yang, Christie, Immergut, Gasser, and McKay commended the investigation conducted by U.S. Coast Guard units in each port, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Coast Guard Office of Maritime and International Law, Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Analysis, EPA Criminal Investigations Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Offices.
Chairman of Shipping Line Sentenced For Illegal Dumping of Waste Oil from Tanker
WASHINGTON, DC, April 4, 2005 -- The U.S. Department of Justice and EPA announced that Rick Dean Stickle, the Chairman and owner of Sabine Transportation Company, was sentenced Friday to 33 months in prison. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Alan S. Gold in Miami, Fla. A jury found Stickle guilty of the two counts in the indictment after a five week trial in November.
Stickle was convicted of ordering the illegal dumping of 440 tons of oil-contaminated grain into the ocean from the SS Juneau, a Sabine tanker, and of obstruction of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Agriculture. Judge Gold also imposed a $60,000 criminal fine.
"The Justice Department is taking serious action against companies and individuals who purposefully violate our marine pollution laws," said Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Disrespect for our nation's laws that protect our marine resources will not be tolerated."
"The oceans cannot be used as dumping grounds," said Thomas V. Skinner, EPA's Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today's sentence signals that senior officials will be vigorously prosecuted for their company's violations."
Sabine Transportation, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, previously pleaded guilty to violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and paid a $2 million criminal fine. Stickle was the chairman of Sabine and owner of all of the company's ships and more than ten other related companies. Four others have been convicted in related prosecutions, including Michael R. Reeve, a former president of Sabine; Michael M. Krider, a former shore-side supervisory marine superintendent; Captain George K. McKay; and Chief Officer Philip J. Hitchens.
"Those who abuse our resources to make a profit are on notice," said Marcos Daniel Jiménez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "Our office is committed to holding accountable not only unscrupulous companies, but also their principals as well."
"The Coast Guard is very proud of the United States Government's success in bringing this case to justice for environmental crimes related to the SS Juneau," said Rear Admiral Thomas Gilmour, US Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security and Environmental Protection. "Shoreside executives who give orders to pollute the marine environment or impede investigations will continue to be held accountable even if their desks are many thousands of miles away from the scene of the crime," added Gilmour.
The government's investigation began when the SS Juneau arrived in Portland, Oregon at the end of a voyage and crew members alerted Coast Guard personnel that a diesel oil leak in one of the Juneau's main cargo tanks was discovered while the humanitarian shipment of grain was being off-loaded in Bangladesh in December of 1998. About 440 metric tons of wheat became saturated with the oil and was rejected by Bengali authorities.
Over the course of the following month, while the ship was in Singapore, company officials and vessel officers discussed various ways of off-loading the cargo legally, but this option was ultimately rejected by Stickle as too expensive, according to the evidence introduced during the trial. Instead, Stickle and other company officials intentionally misled Coast Guard officers in Singapore and Portland by failing to disclose the true nature of the contaminated residue and seeking authorization to discharge the residue at sea by mischaracterizing the true nature of the waste.
Although concealed from the Coast Guard at the time, Stickle and other Sabine executives had decided to hire a team of 15 Bulgarian nationals to board the SS Juneau in Singapore and directly discharge the contaminated wheat into the ocean during the return voyage to the United States. During the first week of February 1999, the crew members of the SS Juneau dumped the 440 tons of diesel-saturated wheat directly into the South China Sea and lied to Coast Guard officials and agents for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (C.A.R.E.) to conceal the illegal dumping.
The investigation was conducted by the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Iowa.
For earlier EPA Action reports, see:
* "EPA Action: Agency responds to negative report on BioWatch program" -- In other news, 1) $10M provided for beach water quality monitoring; 2) Five industries may get pollution permit exemptions; 3) Shell Oil unit to pay $10M fine; 4) Animal feeding air quality agreement signup extended; 5) First-ever rule to reduce mercury emissions from power plants released; 6) $2.6M available in small business grants for new environmental technologies; 7) Proposal made to improve dioxin, dioxin-like compounds reporting; 8) Eight new water Security Product Guides posted online...
* "EPA Action: Agency tightens rules for lead in drinking water " -- In other agency news: 1) Acting R&D office director named; 2) New report assesses U.S.-Mexico border water resources; 3) Permit deadline extended for oil & gas construction; 4) 54 companies join Performance Track Program; 5) Nearly one in 10 homes qualified for Energy Star in 2004; 6) Some Superfund sites to become model airplane zones; 7) Minnesota warehouse/supply firm busted for illegal hazardous waste storage, disposal; 8) El Paso disposal company officers sentenced in waste fraud scheme...