The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) regulates the generation, regulation, storage, disposal and transportation of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is defined as specific chemicals contained on EPA lists. Hazardous waste also includes waste that is ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic. The Act requires that hazardous waste be treated, stored, and disposed of only at facilities that have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waste permit.
The generators or transporters of hazardous waste must prepare a manifest to accompany each and every shipment of hazardous waste that is intended for disposal. A copy of the manifest must also be provided to the EPA.
First, under the RCRA it is a crime to knowingly transport hazardous waste to a facility that does not have an EPA permit. The penalty for violating that provision is a fine up to $50,000 per day and/or five years imprisonment. Second, it is a crime to knowingly treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste without a permit or in violation of a permit, regulation, or standard. The penalty for violating that provision is a sentence from 10 to 16 months in prison. Third, it is a crime to knowingly omit information or make false statements in an application, manifest, or permit. The penalty for violating that provision is a fine of $50,000 per day and/or two years in prison. Fourth, under RCRA it is illegal to destroy or alter required records. The penalty for violating that provision would be a sentence of up to 6 months in prison.
Moreover, under RCRA, it is also a crime to knowingly transport, treat, store, export or dispose of hazardous waste while knowing that such action places another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
Criminal Prosecutions Under RCRA
With respect to criminal prosecutions under the RCRA, the prosecution is required to prove that the defendant had knowledge of its actions in order to show a violation under the RCRA. The burden is typically not difficult for the prosecution to prove. The justification for the easier burden is that RCRA deals with public health issues and should be construed to effectuate its regulatory purpose. The defendant is required to prove that it did not knowingly transport, store, dispose of or generate hazardous waste without the required permit or without complying with local, state and federal regulations.
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