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Justice Dept. launches PR/USVI Environmental Crimes Task Force

The Justice Department has announced the launch of the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Environmental Crimes Task Force to investigate and prosecute violations of federal law that harm the environment, wildlife and human health, as well as associated instances of fraud, waste and abuse in the region.

The creation of the task force comes one year after the department announced its environmental justice enforcement strategy and the creation of an Office of Environmental Justice within the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“All communities deserve clean air, clean water, and the robust protection of their natural resources — both, today and for generations to come,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“This task force demonstrates the department’s continued commitment to environmental justice and its comprehensive strategy to address significant concerns faced by communities overburdened with pollution,” Kim said.

The creation of this Task Force builds upon the Justice Department’s environmental justice strategy and brings together federal law enforcement agencies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, it stated.

Those federal agencies will continue to work closely with their local counterparts, including the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, the USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and the USVI Attorney General’s Office.

“Environmental justice and ensuring that all residents of Puerto Rico enjoy a healthy environment free of hazardous waste and other pollutants is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico. “This Task Force will combine and leverage resources from many federal agencies to aggressively enforce civil and criminal environmental laws.”

The task force will include law enforcement personnel from the following agencies:

  • Army – Criminal Investigation Division
  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • Department of Agriculture — Office of Inspector General
  • Department of Commerce — Office of Inspector General
  • Department of Homeland Security — Homeland Security Investigations
  • Department of Transportation — Office of Inspector General
  • Environmental Protection Agency — Criminal Investigation Division
  • Environmental Protection Agency — Office of Inspector General
  • FBI
  • Food and Drug Administration — Office of Criminal Investigations
  • Housing and Urban Development — Office of Inspector General
  • IRS — Criminal Investigation Division
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — Office of Law Enforcement
  • U.S. Coast Guard — Sector San Juan
  • U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

“The United States Attorney’s Office, along with our federal and local partners, is committed to enforcing environmental laws. Our goal is to ensure that all our citizens receive protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to a healthy environment in which to live, learn, play, and work,” said U.S. Attorney Delia Smith for the USVI.

On May 5, 2022, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta signed the Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy, which “provides a roadmap for using the Justice Department’s civil and criminal enforcement authorities and tools,” the agency stated

Under the Strategy, the Justice Department seeks to advance environmental justice in underserved communities that have been historically marginalized and overburdened, including low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal and Indigenous communities.

“Reporting environmental, public health and safety concerns supports a safe community for all,” the department said, adding that U.S. Attorney Muldrow and U.S. Smith encourage Puerto Rico and USVI residents to use the following contact information to report violations to federal agencies.

  • If the violation concerns air quality, health, water, land, waste, chemicals and toxins (e.g. pesticides and lead paint), and/or a cleanup, contact the EPA to report violations.
  • If the violation concerns fraud, waste and abuse of an EPA program, operation, grant or contract, contact EPA’s Office of Inspector General.
  • If the violation concerns an oil or chemical spill, contact the National Response Center at 1-800-424-88022.
  • If the violation concerns a marine environment, contact the Coast Guard and/or Sector San Juan Command Center at 787-729-2041.
  • If the violation concerns federal marine resources, contact NOAA.
  • If the violation concerns harm to wildlife (e.g., pesticide misuse), contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-344-9453.
  • If the violation concerns wetlands or navigable waters, contact the local district branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • If the violation concerns workplace conditions, such as chemicals or noxious fumes, contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at 1-800-321-6742.
  • If the violation concerns housing conditions, contact the Department of Housing & Urban Development – Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) at 1-800-347-3735.
  • If the violation concerns transportation of hazardous materials or a pipeline, contact the Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG) at 1-800-424-9071.
  • If the violation concerns medications, food products, devices, biological products, cosmetics, or other products for human consumption, contact the FDA at 1-800-332-0127.
  • ​​​If the violation concerns fraud, waste, and abuse related to U.S. Department of Commerce (including any entity receiving DOC funds) visit this website
  • If the violation concerns discriminatory environmental and health impacts, contact DOJ Civil Rights at 1-855-856-1247.
  • If the violation involves public corruption, contact the FBI.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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