Environmental Crimes Unit

  • The Office of Attorney General, Environmental Crimes Unit investigates and prosecutes violations of state environmental laws governing the processing, transportation, storage, or disposal of municipal, residual and hazardous waste. Most criminal prosecutions are initiated pursuant to the Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Streams Law, Air Pollution Control Act, Radiation Protection Act or Oil & Gas Act. In conjunction with environmental crimes, the Section prosecutes traditional Crimes Code offenses including, but not limited to, tampering with public records, forgery, unsworn falsification, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, corrupt organizations, money laundering, vandalism, deceptive business practices and theft.

    Due to the nature of environmental crimes cases, many investigations are conducted utilizing the Pennsylvania Statewide Investigating Grand Juries in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Norristown.

    The staff is dedicated solely to environmental crimes investigations and prosecutions. All Special Agents in the Environmental Crimes Unit have extensive training in the handling of residual and hazardous waste and often assist the Bureau of Narcotics Investigations with methamphetamine laboratory search warrants. Additionally, technicians employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regularly assist the Environmental Crimes Section with collecting waste samples. Most of these samples are analyzed by the Department of Environmental Protection’s laboratory in Harrisburg.

    Pursuant to the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, the Office of Attorney General does not have original jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute environmental crimes. However, the Office can obtain jurisdiction over an environmental crime by a referral from either a district attorney or a state agency with enforcement duties pursuant to statute. See 71 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 732-205(a)(3) and (a)(6) respectively. The majority of criminal referrals are received from the Department of Environmental Protection, however local district attorneys, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Game Commission have also been a source of criminal referrals.