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United States v. Frezzo Bros.

Citation: 9 ELR 20556
No. Nos. 78-2670 et al., 602 F.2d 1123/13 ERC 1403/(3d Cir., 07/13/1979) Aff'd

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the imposition of criminal sanctions on a corporation and its officers for discharging pollutants in violation of § 301 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). The court rejects defendants' contention that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must either give notice of alleged statutory violations or institute a civil enforcement action before pursuing criminal remedies under the Act. The statutory language does not compel this conclusion, and although the legislative history contains conflicting indications on this point, the few courts to consider the question have held to the contrary. Moreover, given his broad responsibilities under the statute, the EPA Administrator should have discretion to determine that the facts in a particular case warrant criminal rather than civil sanctions. The court also rules that the indictment properly charged a violation of the § 301(a) prohibition on unpermitted discharges even though no effluent limitations applicable to defendants' compost production activities had been established. In addition, the court concludes, the evidence presented by the government was sufficient to entitle the jury to infer from the totality of the circumstances surrounding the discharges that they were the product of willful or negligent acts. Finally, the court of appeals determines that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to submit a special verdict to the jury asking whether the violations under each count were willful or negligent.

Counsel for Appellants
William J. Gallagher, Randy L. Sebastian
MacElree, Harvey, Gallagher & Kean
17 West Miner St., West Chester PA 19830
(215) 436-0100

Counsel for Appellee
Peter F. Vaira, U.S. Attorney; Bruce J. Chasan, Walter S. Batty, Jr., Ass't U.S. Attorneys
3310 U.S. Courthouse, 601 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19106
(215) 597-2556

Adams & Lacey,* JJ., concur.