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 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
PITTSBURGH and PHILADELPHIA, PA (May 10, 2019) – Twenty Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP attorneys were named to the 2019 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars list, including founding partner William Pietragallo, II. These designations are awarded to lawyers who received the highest point totals in the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers2019 nomination, research, and review process, an honor reserved… Read more »Read More
On Tuesday, July 14th, Pietragallo Partner Pamela Coyle Brecht will host a panel presentation to all members of the Qui Tam section of the Federal Bar Association (FBA). The panel will include compliance counsel, defense counsel, and relator’s counsel who will discuss several areas related to the False Claims Act under the program title, “How… Read more »Read More
Pietragallo Partner Douglas K. Rosenblum will be presenting at PBI’s upcoming program, “Intellectual Property Law Institute 2020” on Tuesday, July 28th, 2020. Mr. Rosenblum’s segment is titled, “Trials and Tribulations of Virtual Hearings, Depositions, etc. in the Age of Covid-19.” This year marks the 14th anniversary of the ‘IP Institute’ and the program will be… Read more »Read More