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FIFRA at 40: The Need for Felonies for Pesticide Crimes

September 2017

Citation: ELR 10767

Author: Michael J. McClary and Jessica B. Goldstein

In 1996, Congress abandoned a seven-year effort by consecutive Republican and Democratic administrations to increase FIFRA’s misdemeanor penalties for criminal violations to the felony levels provided under the other major federal environmental laws. More than 20 years later, this disparity remains, despite a series of incidents and criminal prosecutions that demonstrate the inability of misdemeanor penalties to effectively deter pesticide crimes. This Article provides an overview of the FIFRA criminal provisions, reviews the previous failed attempts to amend FIFRA to increase its criminal penalties, describes cases that EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice have prosecuted since the failure of those legislative attempts, and discusses the consequent need today for stronger FIFRA criminal penalty provisions.

Michael J. McClary has served the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a civil and criminal enforcement attorney since 1992, and currently is a criminal enforcement attorney in the Legal Counsel Division of EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training. He has also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in federal environmental crimes cases brought in EPA’s regional office in Chicago and in Washington, D.C. Jessica B. Goldstein is currently an Attorney-Advisor in the Legal Counsel Division of EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training. She previously worked as a trial attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County in New York and as a legal fellow for the Hon. Jeffrey A. Cohen of the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Department.

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