A September 27 Baltimore Sun editorial discusses the findings of a recent report by the Center for Progressive Reform that may indicate the State and federal government have not done enough to prosecute violators of the Clean Water Act. The editorial argues that more criminal prosecutions would deter potential violators and ensure better compliance with the Act.
A report released this week by the nonprofit Center for Progressive Reform raises the troubling possibility that they are not. The evidence? A review of a decade of enforcement actions on the state and federal levels reveals that Maryland and federal authorities rarely push for criminal prosecution of those who violate the Clean Water Act.
Admittedly, there are any number of ways to deal with such violations. Often, they are enforced purely as a matter of civil law, with fines or other administrative remedies. And in the vast majority of cases, that’s probably adequate.
But surely the prospect of a criminal sanction, including incarceration, would have a far more deterrent effect than a modest fine. Those who see pollution merely as part of the cost of doing business — a dollar and cents calculation about the bottom-line expense of a fine (if caught) versus the cost of proper disposal of waste material, for instance — would be given pause.