Recently, John C. Cruden, DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), which oversees DOJ’s environmental litigation, voiced a heightened commitment to enforcing environmental laws through criminal prosecution. In the May-June 2016 issue of The Environmental Forum, in a piece presented alongside a separate article entitled “Time for Environmental Crimes,” Cruden emphasized the following:
Without adequate enforcement, our environmental laws have little meaning, and fail to serve their purpose . . . . I believe criminal prosecutions can and should address and deter egregious conduct that imperils public health and the environment. The [ENRD] has responded in an exceptional fashion, strategically increasing our criminal enforcement work.
Considering the source, this is a remarkable statement. ENRD, the division within DOJ tasked with handling diverse environmental and natural resources litigation, primarily brings civil enforcement actions. Within ENRD, however, is the Environmental Crimes Section (ECS), an office comprised of specialized attorneys who are entirely separate from DOJ’s Criminal Division and who oversee prosecution of environmental criminal statutes. In comparison with the breadth of civil enforcement responsibilities undertaken by ENRD’s other offices, ECS has had a relatively narrow mandate. So what does it mean when the head of ENRD, an agency primarily focused on civil litigation, forecasts that ENRD is “increasing” its “criminal enforcement work?”
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