United States v. Mobil Oil Corp.
Citation: 2 ELR 20456
No. No. 71-3558, 464 F.2d 1124/4 ERC 1405/(5th Cir., 07/26/1972)
In prosecution of offenses defined by the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, government may not rely solely upon information about oil spills obtained from mandatory disclosures required by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) since statutory immunity accompanies such disclosures. Statutory immunity extends to any criminal prosecution. Corporate owner of facility is "person-in-charge" of facility within meaning of statute. Statute expressly defines a corporation as a person. Moreover, congressional purpose in requiring disclosure is to ensure timely discovery of oil spills and to facilitate measures designed to minimize pollution damage. Owner-operator of facility has unique capacity to perform these functions. Thus, for purposes of the statute, he must be regarded as in charge of the facility and entitled to immunity. Immunity provision not only insulates required disclosures from Fifth Amendment attack, but also provides incentive for disclosing. Hence, though one function of the statute is not applicable to corporations (which cannot claim Fifth Amendment privilege), further statutory purpose is served by immunizing corporation that discloses.
Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee
Anthony J. P. Farris U.S. Attorney
James R. Gough Ass't. U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 61129
Houston, Texas 77061
Counsel for Defendant-Appellant
Guittard. Henderson, Jones & Lewis
P.O. Box 1848
Victoria, Texas 77901
Before Bell and Roney, Circuit Judges and Brewster, District Judge.