Welcome to The Corporate Fail‘s collection of environmental crime and misconduct cases.  Here you will find examples of enforcement action taken by environment regulators around the world, against corporations who have violated environmental law.   By no means exhaustive, this collection is designed to provide examples of the broad range of environmental crime and misconduct regulators must respond to, and the broad range of responses regulators may choose to use to respond to that misconduct.

Criminal Cases

Aus – June 2017 – “sentence – plea of guilty by the holder of an environmental protection licence which caused process water containing ammonia to be discharged into a creek – breach of s64 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) – contravention of licence condition – breach of s120 of the POEO Act – failure to carry out licensed activities in a competent manner – pollution of waters – environmental harm caused or likely to be caused – potential for harm to aquatic organisms – moderately foreseeable risk of harm – sentencing principles –objective seriousness – offender had total control over the causes of the harm – subjective circumstances – early plea of guilty – demonstrated contrition and remorse – no record of relevant prior convictions – offender agreed to pay the Prosecutor’s costs – high level of co-operation with the Prosecutor – specific and general deterrence – offender ordered to pay amount of fines towards revegetation projects and to publicise offence and sentence in newspapers” Environment Protection Authority v Elf Farm Supplies Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 60

Can – June 2017 – “Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC (formerly known as Coal Valley Resources Inc.) pleaded guilty in Alberta Provincial Court on June 9, 2017, to two counts of violating the Fisheries Act. The Honourable Judge C.D. Gardner sentenced the company to pay monetary penalties totalling $3,500,000… On October 31, 2013, a dike that was holding back a large volume of waste water at  the Obed Mountain Mine failed, resulting in more than 670 million litres of contaminated water and sediment (made up of coal, clay and sand) spilling into the Apetowun Creek and Plante Creek and additionally impacting the Athabasca River.  This case is an example of a successfully coordinated multi-year joint investigation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Province of Alberta.”

Aus – May 2017 – “pollution of waters – plea of guilty – agreed facts demonstrate plea appropriate – discharge into watercourse – discharge for short period – discharged wastewater highly polluted –  discharge did cause death of cattle – extent of harm caused by discharge substantial – held to be aggravating factor – offending conduct significantly above the midpoint of the range of seriousness for such offences – discount for early plea – starting penalty of $650,000 for water pollution offence and of $100,000 for licence condition breach offence – total discount of 33% appropriate (including discount for the early guilty pleas)  – publication order – utility of publication order for general deterrence” Environment Protection Authority v Dyno Nobel Asia Pacific Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 64

Aus – Apr 2017 – “Environmental offence – plea of guilty to charge of water pollution from sewage treatment plant – moderate objective seriousness – mitigating factors considered – totality applied” Environment Protection Authority v Hawkesbury City Council [2017] NSWLEC 39

UK – Mar 2017 – “JSJ Wood Recycling Ltd and two directors have been ordered to pay fines totalling just under £12,000 with additional victim surcharges taking the figure to over £12,000 for treating wood waste without the correct authorisations from the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency was also awarded £10,000 in costs.”

Aus – Mar 2017 – Chief Executive, Office of Environment and Heritage v Essential Energy [2017] NSWLEC 27 “environmental offence – plea of guilty – defendant damaged vegetation in a national park – clearing by subcontractor of defendant – extent of environmental harm – subjective factors of defendant to be taken into account – effect of timing of plea of guilty – restoration and prevention order imposed”

Aus – Feb 2017 – Environment Protection Authority v Caltex Australia Petroleum Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 8 – “negligence causing escape of a petroleum product – air pollution – early plea of guilty to a “derivative” offence – limited environmental and human harm – moderate objective seriousness – relative culpability of company and an individual – sentencing principles – mitigating factors – assistance to authorities – contrition and remorse – fine applied to environmental projects – costs – publication orders” A record $400,000 fine for the the NSW EPA.

Canada – Feb 2017 – “On February 9, 2017, numbered company 1762690 Ontario Inc., known as Piroli Construction, and its president Robert Piroli pleaded guilty in Ontario Provincial Court to offences under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994. Fines totaling $7,500 will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.  While on patrol in June 2015, an Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officer observed hundreds of Bank Swallows flying over a construction site on Seacliff Drive in Leamington, Ontario. Upon inspection of the site, the officer found that numerous Bank Swallow eggs, nests and nest shelters had been destroyed. Construction work at the site was being conducted by Piroli Construction.   It is an offence under the Migratory Birds Regulations for anyone to kill, hunt, capture, injure, harass, take or disturb a migratory bird or to damage, destroy, remove or disturb migratory bird eggs, nests and nest shelters without a permit.”

UK – Feb 2017 – “South West Water has been ordered to pay £205,000 in fines and costs for discharging sewage into the Fal estuary in Cornwall. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.”

Aus – Feb 2017 – Two SA EPA convictions upheld in Supreme Court of Appeal (SA) for licence contraventions.

USA – Feb 2017 – corporate and white collar convictions in relation to the vessel, T/V Green Sky, for “falsifying documents in order to conceal illegal discharges of oily bilge waste and obstruction charges”.

USA – Feb 2017 – “International Petroleum Corporation of Delaware (“IPC’) was sentenced today by United States District Court Judge Gregory M. Sleet to a $1,300,000 fine and $2,200,000 restitution to the City of Wilmington for environmental crimes, including a conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act.

UK – Jan 2017 – “Imerys Minerals Limited pleaded guilty to, on around 25 July 2013, discharging poisonous, noxious or polluting matter into inland freshwaters including the Rocks Stream, Rosevean Stream and Par River in contravention of Regulation 12(1)(b) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

Appearing before Truro Crown Court on 20 January 2017, the company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 costs.”

Canada – Jan 2017 – “On January 23, 2017, the Clearwater River Dene Nation, 101077233 Saskatchewan Ltd. (Clearwater Store), and band administrator, Walter Hainault, were sentenced in the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan after pleading guilty to failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order (EPCO) issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada.”

US – New York – 2016 Summary – “New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos. “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.””

Canada – Dec 2016 – “On December 5, 2016, CRC Canada Co., located in Mississauga, Ontario, was sentenced in the Ontario Court of Justice and was ordered to pay $225,000 after pleading guilty to two counts of contravening the Ozone-Depleting Substances Regulations, 1998 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). The fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF).”

Ireland – Dec 2016 – “On 28th of November 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency prosecuted Rosderra Irish Meats Group (P0181-01) at Tullamore District Court. On hearing details of the offence Judge King convicted the company and imposed a fine of €2,500.The Agency costs were also awarded.”

US – Dec 2016 – “Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. (Princess) has agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges stemming from its deliberate pollution of the seas and intentional acts to cover it up.  Princess will pay a $40 million penalty– the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution – and plead guilty to charges related to illegal dumping of oil contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship.” The plea agreement is available here; exhibits in support here.

Aus – Nov 2016 – “sentence – pollution of waters – significant environmental harm caused or likely to be caused – environmental harm highly foreseeable – practical measures to avoid environmental harm not taken – offender had complete control over causes giving rise to offence – offence involved multiple pollution events over considerable period of time – offender obtained financial gain by avoiding waste disposal costs  – early plea of guilty – offender genuinely remorseful – no prior convictions – offender of good corporate character – offender unlikely to re-offend – offender co-operated with regulatory authority – offender agreed to pay prosecutor’s legal and investigation costs – general deterrence necessary – specific deterrence unnecessary” – Environment Protection Authority v Custom Chemicals Pty Ltd [2016] NSWLEC 146

Aus – Nov 2016 – “breach of licence condition – emission of toxic slag dust into atmosphere – plea of guilty – actual harm to the environment – potential of harm to humans – objective and subjective sentencing factors – fine imposed – publication order made.” Environment Protection Authority v Morgan Cement International Pty Ltd [2016] NSWLEC 140.

Canada – Oct 2016 – “Nyrstar Myra Falls pleaded guilty, in B.C. Provincial Court, to two counts under the Fisheries Act as well as to one count under the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations. As a result, they have been ordered to pay $185,000 of which $184,000 will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF).”

Aus – Sep 2016 – convictions quashed by the SASC, but ultimately reinstated by the SASCA – $3000 fine – illegal taking of a rock lobster carrying eggs and illegal “scrubbing” of that lobster – registered owner of the fishing boat guilty of offences despite prosecutor inability to identify which individual committed the primary offence – fisheries investigators microchipped the lobsters. Dietman v Feast [2016] SASCFC 108.

USA – Sep 2016 – “PLH, LLC, a New Hampshire limited liability company … entered pleas of guilty in Cheshire County Superior Court to two felony indictments for failure to lawfully manage regulated waste and was sentenced on September 26, 2016.” – “The judged [sic] imposed a fine of $250,000 plus a $10,000 penalty assessment on the indictment alleging the company kept buried CRTs between July 2010 and August 2013. The court also sentenced PLH on the second indictment of improper maintenance of CRT waste to a consecutive fine of $250,000 that has been suspended provided the company remains of good behavior for ten years. Identical indictments against Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group, Inc., formerly known as Atlas Advanced Pyrotechnics, Inc. Atlas Fireworks Factory, Inc. and Atlas Property Management, LLC, have been dropped upon the pleas of guilty and acceptance of responsibility by PLH, LLC.”

UK – Sep 2016 – PG to one offence under Regulation 38(2) Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 – waste treatment company failed to ensure that emissions from its activities were free from odours at levels likely to cause annoyance outside the site, and failed to use appropriate measures to prevent or minimise, the odour – history of non-compliance by the company – serious impacts of odour – “In sentencing the company on 8 September 2016, District Judge Sheraton said: “There had been a great deal of adverse effects on human health, quality of life and air quality. I therefore impose a fine at the maximum of my sentencing powers”” – AmeyCespa (East) Ltd, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £13,336 costs.

Aus – Sep 2016 – emission of offensive odour in breach of s129 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 – environmental harm and harm to human health – $60,000 fine and publish a notice about the offence. Environment Protection Authority v Wambo Coal Pty Limited (ACN: 000 668 057) [2016] NSWLEC 125

UK – Sep 2016 – Water Treatment Company – PG to unspecified offence – permit conditions “exceeded” over a 12 month period – fined £24,000 and costs of £33,218 – company’s plans to spend money to ensure future compliance considered “mitigatory”.

UK – Aug 2016 – Water Authority – PG (and self-reported) to unspecified offence. Concerned illegal discharge of sewerage into river; Yorkshire Water fined £350,000 plus costs.

Aus – Aug 2016 – Mining Company – PG to to breach of Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 – failure to comply with conditions of consent – disturbance of identified Aboriginal cultural heritage – Land and Environment Court NSW – Prosecuted by Dept of Planning and Environment (NSW) – fined $175,000 plus costs. (Ashurst defending.)

Aus – Aug 2016 – Mining Company – PG to 12 offences under Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld), including willfully causing serious environmental harm – Qld Dept of Environment and Heritage Protection prosecuted in Magistrates’ Court – $250,000 fine, plus legal and investigation costs, plus two public benefit orders of $40,000 each, and a restoration and rehabilitation order – the DEHP reports this is the first time it has sought an R&R order.

Aus – Aug 2016 – PG to 1 charge of failing to comply with electrical safety requirements – Billboard erecting company prosecuted by WorkCover Queensland (Electrical Safety Office) – Company fined $125,000 plus costs – fatality.

Canada – Aug 2016 –  “Numbered company 1526806 Ontario Inc. was sentenced on July 27, 2016, in the Ontario Court of Justice and ordered to pay $70,000 after being convicted on January 12, 2016, of contravening the PCB Regulations and failing to comply with an Environmental Protection Compliance Order issued under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act(CEPA). The fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. 

Canada – Aug 2016 – “On August 23rd in St. John’s provincial court, a judge ordered Vale Newfoundland and Labrador Limited to pay $30K in penalties after the company pleaded guilty to a violation of the federal Fisheries Act. The violation relates to a March 2013 incident where untreated and acutely lethal effluent was discharged from the Voisey’s Bay mine into the Anaktalak Bay. Of the total penalty, $25K will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.”

Canada – Aug 2016 – “Executive Cleaners and Donald Pattison of Saskatoon were ordered on July 6, 2016, in Saskatchewan Provincial Court to pay a $5,000 fine each after pleading guilty to one offence each under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (CEPA 1999). Under CEPA 1999, dry cleaners must follow regulations concerning the use of tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene – PERC), including storage and reporting requirements.”

Canada – Jul 2016 – “1526806 Ontario Inc. was sentenced … in the Ontario Court of Justice and ordered to pay $70,000 after being convicted … of contravening the PCB Regulations and failing to comply with an Environmental Protection Compliance Order issued under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act(CEPA). The fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.  The conviction relates to the continued use of, and failure to store or send for destruction to an authorized facility, equipment containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at concentrations in excess of those permitted under the PCB Regulations.  

Infringement Notices

Aus – Feb 2017 – “Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined Coburg North company Bega Cheese Limited more than $7,500 for failing to comply with a notice that required it to not exceed the amount of noise it is allowed to make at night.  EPA Metro Manager Daniel Hunt said EPA had conducted noise monitoring for a week at a nearby home and found breaches of environmental policy.*  “Activities at Bega Cheese’s premises, which produce noise emissions from plant equipment and truck movements, exceeded the night period noise limit of 53 decibels (dB) by between two and 17 dB,” Mr Hunt said.  Mr Hunt said the recorded noise levels were a breach of a pollution abatement notice that required the company to comply with environmental regulations.*

Aus – Feb 2017 – “Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined a Craigieburn company more than $7,500 after it disregarded an official warning issued to it for storing too many waste tyres at its Technical Drive premises.  EPA Metro Manager Daniel Hunt said an EPA inspection of the site found that Engine Galore Pty Ltd was storing approximately 6,500 equivalent passenger units (EPUs) of waste tyres without the required EPA licence to do so.  “The company was issued an official warning last year and informed that it would face further sanctions if it didn’t reduce its stockpile to less than 5,000 EPUs. While the company did initially reduce its stockpile, it has allowed tyre numbers to increase again, which is why EPA has fined it more than $7,500,” Mr Hunt said.

Aus – Jan 2017 – “Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has issued a $7,773 fine to the operators responsible for the demolition of the Corkman pub after they failed to meet a reporting deadline requirement outlined in a statutory notice.  EPA issued the company with a Minor Works Pollution Abatement Notice on 19 October 2016 following its inspection of the former Corkman pub site, located at 160 Leicester Street in Carlton, where large piles of construction and demolition waste were left uncovered, and included asbestos. “Subsequently, a $7,773 Penalty Infringement Notice was issued for breaching 31B(6)* of the Environment Protection Act as they failed to meet the reporting requirement outlined in this notice.”

Aus – Jan 2017 – “Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined North Shore company Midway Limited more than $7,500 for permitting a significant amount of contaminated water, the company’s third spill in 12 months, to leave its site and enter Corio Bay.”

USA – Aug 2016 – “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently fined Clearview Home Improvements Inc. $58,450 for failing to comply with the federal Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule while working at seven residential properties in Southern California. This rule was created to protect the public from lead-based paint hazards that occur during repair or remodeling activities in housing built before 1978. ”

Civil Cases

USA – Mar 2017 – Cleanup Orders by consent – “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a legal agreement with the Sherwin-Williams Company to clean up lead and arsenic contaminated soil and sediment at the Route 561 Dump site in Gibbsboro, N.J. The site is near a former paint manufacturing plant and was used as a paint waste dump. The Route 561 Dump site includes businesses, a vacant lot, White Sand Branch creek, and wetlands. Sherwin-Williams will pay an estimated $14 million to clean up the site, and pay the EPA’s expenses in overseeing the work.  “This agreement allows us to move forward on this much needed cleanup of contaminated soil and sediment and to protect the health of people who live and work in this community,” said Catherine McCabe, Acting EPA Regional Administrator. “Cleanup of the Route 561 Dump Site is being paid for by Sherwin-Williams, not the taxpayers, which is an important feature of EPA’s site cleanup program.””

USA – Jan 2017 – “The owner of a blueberry processing facility in Hancock, Maine has come into compliance with federal requirements designed to protect the public and first responders from exposure to hazardous chemicals, under the terms of a recent settlement with EPA.  In the settlement, Hancock Foods, Inc. agreed to pay $103,613 to settle claims that it violated Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act in its handling of anhydrous ammonia and $5,110 to settle claims it violated the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act – or Superfund law – when it failed to timely report a release of anhydrous ammonia.  The case stems from a 2012 inspection of Hancock Foods in which EPA inspectors saw potentially dangerous conditions relating to the ammonia refrigeration processes. Further, the company failed to immediately notify the National Response Center upon discovering a release of about 300 pounds of ammonia from a refrigeration unit on March 27, 2015.  EPA responded to the violations at Hancock in two stages – first ensuring that the CAA violations were addressed in an administrative compliance order, then following up with a penalty action.”

USA – Jan 2017 – “From September 8 to 10, 2013, Matson spilled approximately 233,000 gallons of sugarcane molasses into Honolulu Harbor during ship-loading activities. The spill occurred from a section of pipe that the Hawaii Department of Transportation found was leaking in 2012, and reported to Matson. The molasses discharge killed approximately 25,000 fish in the harbor and damaged coral reefs in the area. Matson no longer ships molasses from Honolulu Harbor.”  The matter was dealt with in this way: Matson settled out-of-court with the State of Hawaii “to cease transporting molasses through Honolulu Harbor, remove the molasses distribution system, pay for re-growing corals that were damaged or destroyed, and reimburse related cleanup costs”.  It was also prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office, for unlawful discharge of molasses: it pleaded guilty and “paid a $400,000 fine plus restitution of $600,000 after pleading guilty to criminal charges of unlawfully discharging molasses into Honolulu Harbor. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the restitution was divided equally between the Waikiki Aquarium to support coral reef programs and invasive algae cleanups and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii to inspire local communities to care for coastlines through beach cleanups.”  Finally, the EPA “announced a settlement with Matson Terminals, Inc. over federal Clean Water Act violations relating to a September 2013 molasses spill into Honolulu Harbor. Matson has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $725,000.”


USA – Aug 2016 – Consent decree without admissions – “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a multi-region settlement with Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC (Syngenta) in Greensboro, N.C., for alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Syngenta will pay $766,508 in civil penalties and spend $436,990 to perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP).”

USA – Aug 2016 – Consent decree has been filed to resolve civil litigation against Harley Davidson Inc and its associated corporations, relating to allegations (that are not admitted) that “Harley-Davidson violated the Clean Air Act by manufacturing and selling about 340,000 devices, known as tuners, that allow users to change how a motorcycle’s engine functions.  These changes can cause the motorcycles to emit higher amounts of certain air pollutants than they would in the original configuration that Harley-Davidson certified with EPA. Harley-Davidson also manufactured and sold more than 12,000 motorcycles that EPA alleges did not undergo proper EPA certification to ensure they meet federal clean air standards.”  The consent decree proposes a $12M civil penalty and $3M community project, plus agreements to buy-back and destroy the illegal cheat devices.  The alleged conduct has been ongoing since 2008. Summary here.

USA – Aug 2016 – Consent decrees have been entered to resolve civil litigation against Chevron Mining Inc, jointly filed by the USA (DOJ), State of New Mexico and New Mexico Environment Department.  The latest consent decree would, if accepted, require $143 million in cleanup work at the Chevron Questa Mine Superfund site and payment of $5.2 million to reimburse EPA’s past costs for overseeing cleanup work at the site.  Review the documents here.

Administrative Actions

Enforceable Undertakings

UK – Feb 2017 – “Anglian Water Services Ltd has agreed to pay £100,000 to a local community interest company following a pollution incident in Peterborough.

Anglian Water paid the sum to River Nene Regional Park, a local social enterprise. The payment follows a pollution incident at Anglian Water’s Flag Fen Water Recycling Centre (WRC).

In May 2013, storm tanks at Flag Fen WRC overflowed, discharging untreated sewage into the Counter Drain. Although the overflow occurred throughout May 2013, the environmental impact was localised and short-lived. It only affected the Counter Drain, and did not adversely affect the River Nene.

Because this was not a case of severe pollution, the Environment Agency decided to agree to a civil sanction called an Enforcement Undertaking (EU). Under the terms of this EU, Anglian Water offered to make a donation of £100,000 to the River Nene Regional Park. This donation will enable the River Nene Regional Park to employ a River Restoration Officer.”

Unilateral Orders

US – Sep 2016 – “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a legal order directing the Vaquería La Josefina Dairy Farm to stop wastewater from flowing from a manure storage lagoon on the farm into a nearby creek that is a tributary of the Río Culebrinas. A recent investigation by the EPA revealed that the company had violated the Clean Water Act, when it discharged wastewater from its facilities. The Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority operates two drinking water intakes downstream from the Vaquería La Josefina Dairy Farm.”

Licence/Permit Suspension

UK – Nov 2016 – “The Environment Agency has partially suspended the environmental permit of Lindrick Project Management Ltd, Chesterfield, after the company failed to comply with its permit conditions.  The company, which runs a waste transfer facility on Mansfield Road, Corbriggs, accepted unpermitted waste onto its site, and it posed an increased risk of fire, dust and odour nuisance by storing waste outside, in breach of permit conditions that require waste to be stored within a building.”