The Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries and Wildlife is considering an amendment to the Clean Water Act (CWA) that would require human endangerment for a finding of criminal negligence under section 309(c). This proposal is in reaction to United States v. Hanousek and United States v. Hong, seen by some as overly harsh punishment for mere “accidents,” contrary to the intent behind the CWA. Others have defended the decisions, arguing that requiring human endangerment for section 309(c) violations would unjustifiably excuse negligent conduct harmful to the environment and the public welfare. This Note reviews the criminal negligence standard under section 309(c), its application in Hanousek and Hong, and the major arguments proffered by the amendment’s proponents and opponents. It concludes that the amendment is ill-advised, risking failure to capture significant environmental harms and depriving prosecutors of leverage in plea-bargaining.
A Proposed Narrowing of the Clean Water Act's Criminal Negligence Provisions: It's Only Human?,
B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev.