Companies faced with an environmental enforcement matter may be uncertain whether the inspectors are focused on criminal, civil or administrative enforcement, or all of the above. Increasingly, local, state and federal environmental agencies and prosecuting authorities such as state attorneys general and district attorneys are working in networked task forces giving them multiple jurisdictions and avenues to prosecute environmental violations. The failure of a company to recognize when a routine regulatory investigation has turned criminal can lead to far-reaching and severe consequences for both the company and any individuals that may be the subject of the criminal probe.
Alston & Bird’s internal investigation and environmental defense team brings the perspective needed to address the evolving and multifaceted nature of simultaneous administrative, civil and criminal investigations and enforcement proceedings. Because our team is built around former federal prosecutors, district attorneys and environmental regulatory attorneys, we can readily analyze environmental violations to determine the agency’s focus and guide our client’s response. In some instances, such as a refinery explosion, the likelihood of joint civil and criminal investigations is so great that we advise clients to anticipate both from the onset. In other cases, such as with permit exceedances, the agency’s focus may remain administrative or civil well into the investigation. Each case requires a different approach when interacting with regulatory agencies.