HARRISBURG – Attorney General Tom Corbett praised members of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for their approval of a bill that enhances Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law, increasing penalties for polluters who compromise the quality of the commonwealth’s waterways.
Corbett said the legislation will strengthen the ability of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Section to investigate and prosecute polluters. Additionally, Corbett said the increased penalties included in the bill will help prevent Pennsylvania from becoming an attractive dumping ground for polluters who face tougher penalties in neighboring states.
“We need to send a clear message to polluters that Pennsylvania is not a dumping ground for their waste,” Corbett said. “These changes will enhance our efforts to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes and also ensure that the punishment fits their crime.”
Corbett said current law treats most water pollution cases as third-degree misdemeanors – the lowest level of misdemeanor offense under Pennsylvania law. The proposed legislation would make intentional violations a felony and substantially increase the penalties, to a maximum of seven years imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.
Corbett said the current law is inadequate to effectively deter pollution, and may actually make Pennsylvania an attractive dumping ground for polluters who face much tougher penalties in neighboring states such as New Jersey, New York and Maryland.
“Pennsylvania should not be a safe haven for out-of-state polluters, who may be tempted to dump their waste here in order to escape harsher penalties in their home states,” Corbett said. “These amendments bring our Clean Streams Law more closely in line with our neighbors and with federal environmental law.”
Corbett said the legislation would also increase the statute of limitations for violations of the Clean Streams Law from two years to five years, giving authorities additional time to investigate pollution, identify violators and prosecute cases.
Corbett said the legislation, House Bill 2042, was approved unanimously (196-0) by members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in May 2006.
“I urge the full Senate to quickly bring this important bill to a vote, and send it on to the Governor for final approval,” Corbett said.