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Record Year for Environmental Enforcement in the U.S.


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February 16, 2017 by John Nicholson

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division recently released its environmental enforcement report for 2016.  The report shows includes the highest recoveries in environmental enforcement and the highest criminal penalties handed down in an individual vessel pollution case.

The year was highlighted by the completion of a settlement with BP arising out of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico with the final entry in April 2016 of the consent decree in the Department’s settlement.  This saw the United States and the five Gulf Coast states secure payments in excess of $20 billion to resolve their claims against BP.

This settlement is the largest in the history of federal law enforcement for a single defendant, and it includes the largest-ever Clean Water Act civil penalty and the largest-ever recovery of damages for injuries to natural resources.

In addition to the BP litigation, the division continued its program of prosecuting shipping companies and crew for the intentional discharges of pollutants from ocean-going vessels in U.S. waters.  t the end of fiscal year 2016, criminal penalties imposed in these cases totaled more than $363 million in fines and more than 32 years of confinement.

In December 2016, the division obtained the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution when it concluded the prosecution of Princess Cruise Lines.  The company pleaded guilty to seven felony charges and will pay a $40 million penalty.

Deepwater Horizon Disaster


John Nicholson

John Nicholson

John is a cleantech and environmental expert with over 25 years of experience. He is a registered professional engineer and has a Masters degree in environmental engineering.
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