By: James W. Kraus
After having been convicted of criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, conspiracy and obstruction of justice following a federal jury trial earlier this year, John Tuma, the former owner and general manager of Arkla Disposal Services, Inc., was sentenced on Wednesday to 60 months in prison, three years of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. The sentence, handed down by Judge Tom Stagg in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, represents yet another example of the potential for significant consequences for environmental law violations.
Tuma was both owner and general manager of Arkla Disposal Services, Inc., a centralized wastewater treatment facility that received wastewater from industrial processes and oilfield exploration and production facilities. According to the contract for those services, Arkla was to treat the wastewater through a multi-step treatment process before discharging it to either the city of Shreveport publicly owned treatment works or into the Red River. Instead, Arkla discharged untreated wastewater directly into the Shreveport sewer system and the Red River. In addition to the unlawful discharges, Tuma was convicted of obstruction of justice for obstructing an inspection by the EPA.
Several regions around the country are witnessing the rapid spread of hydrofracking operations for the recovery of natural gas located deep beneath the earth’s surface. These operations generate significant amounts of wastewater. As hydrofracking continues on the upswing, the proper disposal of wastewater will become increasingly difficult. The issue is likely to remain a high priority for environmental regulators.
The potential for criminal liability for violating environmental laws in conducting hydrofracking and similar operations should not be taken lightly. The elements of proof for regulatory violations as compared with criminal violations of most environmental statutes, including the Clean Water Act, are technically quite similar. The factors that can cause a regulatory violation to develop into a criminal case include the level of intent of the violator, the violator’s prior compliance record, whether the violator voluntarily disclosed the violation, and the amount of environmental damage caused by the violation.
Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti LLP, a business and litigation law firm with five offices across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, is proud to announce that nineteen of our distinguished attorneys have been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® 2021 edition. “The legacy of our law firm is the depth of our courtroom… Read more »Read More
Pietragallo partners John Schwab and Jim Kraus will be discussing topics related to federal criminal practice in a four-hour symposium hosted by the Allegheny County Bar Association on Friday, April 24th, 2020. Do you have your first criminal case in Federal Court or do you practice criminal defense and need a refresher on the specifics… Read more »Read More
Nationally-recognized False Claims Act Attorney Pamela C. Brecht will present “The False Claims Act and Dealing with Whistleblowers” at Seton Hall University School of Law on Wednesday, October 14, 2020. Ms. Brecht, Chair of the Firm’s Qui Tam & False Claims Act practice, will be co-presenting with Morgan Lewis Partner Meredith S. Auten. For more… Read more »Read More
Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP Partner Pamela Coyle Brecht will present “The False Claims Act Update” at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s (PBI) A Day in Health Law program on October 28, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A Day on Health Law is a one-day, six-hour spin-off of PBI’s annual Health Law Institute. The Health… Read more »Read More