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Washington, D.C., November 21, 2000 - Unexpected environmental incidents - such as oil spills - can create serious civil and criminal liability for companies and individuals that own and operate vessels. However, a new handbook developed specifically for the marine industry provides comprehensive guidance on how companies can prepare for and respond to government investigations into environmental incidents.

The book, "Environmental Criminal Liability in the United States: A Handbook for the Marine Industry," was published by the Chamber of Shipping of America. The Chamber is an organization of owners and operators of U.S. and foreign-flag sea-going vessels. The book was prepared for the Chamber by Venable attorneys David Dickman and Judson Starr. Attorneys in Venable's Environmental and Energy Practice Group advise a number of maritime clients on issues associated with environmental compliance and have represented vessel owners and operators during government investigations and prosecutions resulting from environmental incidents.

The 158-page handbook is geared for corporate officers, operations managers and counsel to assist them in preparing for and responding to U.S. government investigations of oil spills and violations of environmental laws and regulations. Joseph Cox, President of the Chamber of Shipping of America, noted that the Chamber approached the publication of the handbook "with both reluctance and resolve." Cox said that while normal industry practices should not lead to concerns of criminal liability, recent actions by some government agencies dictate a need for guidance for ship owners, mariners, charterers and others in the marine industry.

"Based on our experience and discussions with the Chamber and its members, we recognized that the marine industry had unique issues associated with criminal enforcement of environmental laws that needed to be addressed because of the overlap of international and U.S. legal systems and the significant differences between enforcement of laws at sea and ashore," said David Dickman.

"We wanted to make the Handbook readable and easy to understand and use," said Jud Starr. "We worked hard to address this complex topic in a non-legal way and based on the comments we have received about the Handbook thus far, we are pleased to say we were successful." The book on environmental compliance is one of three recently written by Venable's environmental crimes practice group, including "The Deskbook on Environmental Crime" for the Environmental Law Institute and "Preparing for the Knock on the Door," for the American Chemistry Council (formerly Chemical Manufacturers Association).

The Handbook can be purchased from the Chamber of Shipping of America for $50 per book, and volume discounts are available. The book can be ordered by calling the Chamber at (202) 775-4399.

One of the American Lawyer’s top 100 law firms, Venable LLP has attorneys practicing in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property and government affairs. Venable serves corporate, institutional, governmental, nonprofit and individual clients throughout the U.S. and around the world from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and offices in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia.