Jail Time for Polluters Becomes Law – Nava’s Measure Sends Strong Message

SACRAMENTO /California Newswire/ — Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) and the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) announced that Assembly Bill 305, which allows prosecutors to seek jail time for polluters, was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Increased enforcement will provide prosecutors the tools to crack down on polluters who are not proactive in responding to spills,” said Nava. “As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to send a strong message to polluters. Companies that handle hazardous materials need to work diligently to ensure that the environment and the public are safe or there will be serious consequences.”

Under AB 305, polluters who fail to report a hazardous materials spill, or who make a false or misleading report about a spill, can be sentenced to up to one year in jail. The previous penalty was a maximum fine of $50,000. This new measure will subject violators to imprisonment in the county jail, or both a fine and imprisonment.

Said Scott Thorpe of CDAA, “The California District Attorneys Association is proud to have sponsored and to have worked with Mr. Nava on this important environmental legislation. This bill will increase the ability of District Attorneys across the state to prosecute those who violate hazardous materials laws.”

Additionally, AB 305 will extend the statute of limitations for violations from 1 to 5 years to make the statute similar to other laws related to hazardous substances and hazardous waste. Companies that have facilities that handle hazardous materials are required to develop a Hazardous Material Release Response Plan, submit hazardous material inventory and management information, and immediately report any release or threatened release of a hazardous material. This measure will give district attorneys enhanced tools to go after polluters who fail to develop and file plans and report any hazardous material release, and bring much-needed protections to the public and first responders such as law enforcement and firefighters.

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