Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

No Reform until Plant Officials Made Accountable for Damage

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

No Reform until Plant Officials Made Accountable for Damage

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - "Unless a corporate official believes he can personally be held accountable for environmental abuses, the various fines levied against these corporations are little more than a cost of doing business."

So believes George Washington University law Professor Jonathan Turley, founder of the Environmental Crimes Project. He told NCR the project "developed out of a frustration with the current prosecution policies of the Department of Justice."

Turley serves on the Environmental Crimes Advisory Group. The federal commission met for three years to design new sentencing laws that would govern all environmental crimes committed by corporations.

Turley comes from a family with a long history of public interest work - in Chicago settlement houses and in pioneering employment opportunities. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Northwestern University law school, Turley knows Washington intimately. He first served in Congress as a 15-year-old page.

He caught a severe case of "Potomac fever" then an in the past 17 years has worked in the executive and judicial branches of the federal government and in both House and Senate.

"I do not accept," Turley said, "that this city is supposed to run for a small group of lobbyists who make a great deal of money by protecting individuals from criminal prosecutions. My students and I are over-leveraged and overworked, but we are committed to the mandate of this project.

"We know that the environmental disaster that we have seen in places like Alaska will continue until corporate officials feel a personal responsibility for their decisions. I have seen powerful lobbyists protect corporate officials and corporations from the most egregious environmental crimes," he said.

"We have cases in which individuals died and the corporations were given plea bargains for a misdemeanor and a $14,000 fine. …

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