August 23, 2010

Venable Hosts 16th Annual ALI-ABA Conference on Criminal Enforcement of Environmental Laws

5 min

Led by two former heads of DOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section, September 23rd program will explore expected increase in criminal enforcement of environmental laws after Gulf oil spill



WASHINGTON D.C. (August 23, 2010) – The 2010 explosion of the Upper Big Branch mine and the recent Gulf oil spill have reminded the business community of the devastating impact of environmental and safety disasters and the resulting civil, criminal and legislative exposure that they engender. These issues will be a key themes in this year’s ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association) Conference on Criminal Enforcement of Environmental Laws, set for September 23, 2010 at Venable LLP in Washington D.C.

The upcoming program – the 16th annual – will examine federal and state criminal environmental enforcement trends as the Obama Administration's regulatory and judicial teams are fully staffed and up to speed. The day-long event will cover a full range of environmental law enforcement topics, including management during a crisis, internal investigations, trial tactics, sentencing guidelines and penalties, appeals, as well as ethics and professional responsibilities.  It is the only conference of its kind to promote discussion between representatives of the regulated community, defense counsel, government prosecutors and policy makers. 

Co-chairing the conference, as they have for many years, are Venable partners Judson Starr and Jerry Block, both of whom served as chiefs of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section. Messrs. Starr and Block describe a "tsunami" of enforcement in the wake of the Gulf oil spill. "Today's enforcement environment has changed dramatically in the past four months," said Mr. Starr. "The recent Gulf oil spill and the Upper Big Branch mine disaster have changed the rules and the government's focus."

"The combination of these two highly-visible, publicly-charged environmental crises have focused the administration's attention and enforcement resources ," added Mr. Starr. "By definition, each event was unexpected, but the Government’s responses to the emergencies havere-defined "the norm."

“No conference on the subject of environmental crimes today could avoid a  focused attention on the problems  in the Gulf; however there are other events equally worthy of attention to be addressed by this conference from both lawyers and policymakers,” added Mr. Block. 

The ALI-ABA program will feature keynote addresses by Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Jean Williams (invited), Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. The program will also include four sessions dealing with relevant topics in environmental law criminal enforcement:

  • Dealing with a Criminal Case in the Midst of an Environmental Crisis - After Congressional and other investigations, engineering studies, and company pronouncements, how much is left for DOJ to investigate?  How do you deal with Congress, blogs, spin doctors, intense media scrutiny, and the plaintiff's bar, and still defend your client? What lessons can be learned from past environmental disasters: the 1989 Exxon Valdez; the 1999 Erika tanker spill off the French Brittany coast and subsequent prosecution of 15 individuals and corporations; the 2005 BP Texas City refinery explosion; how about from the recent Upper Big Branch Mine and the Gulf Coast oil spill?

  • What's New in the Internal Investigation World - What "type" of internal investigation is it? Is the Government already Knocking at the Door, or not? Who's the real client -- the General Counsel? The CEO? The Board of Directors? The Audit Committee? The new SEC reporting in the environmental case; Cooperation (or not) and the Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations; Employee corporate Miranda warnings (Upjohn) and indemnifications/joint defense agreements; E-Discovery: Controlling costs and controlling risks in an era of exploding electronic information.

  • Trial of the Environmental Crimes Case - Avoiding or narrowing the scope of trial: Will the May 2010 Holder Memorandum make a difference? Brady and other discovery issues; where is DOJ after the Stevens and WR Grace cases? Trial strategy in cases involving multiple defendants; Benchmarking the totality of damage when an environmental event affects a large, undefined public; How do court settlements relate to harm to the victims (Crime Victims' Rights Act)?; How does suspension and debarment figure into negotiations and trial strategy?

  • New Cases, Familiar Faces – OSHA and DOJ's Workers Safety Initiative; Expanded coverage of the Lacey Act -- New prosecutions?; Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other "strict liability" statutes -- How absolute is strict liability?; The vessel initiative after 15 plus years; Potential criminal issues in alternative energy laws with new reporting challenges.

The ALI-ABA event will also be available for viewing via Webcast.

For more information about the Criminal Enforcement of Environmental Laws program or to register online, please visit the ALI-ABA website.


Note:  An American Lawyer top 100 law firm, 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.

Note: Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and founded more than 60 years ago as a joint undertaking of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association, ALI-ABA provides post-admission education for the legal profession. ALI-ABA is dedicated to keeping the legal community abreast of current developments and providing practitioners with the resources necessary to enhance their practice. ALI-ABA offers a national curriculum of continuing legal education featuring traditional substantive CLE courses, litigation and transactional skills programs, distance learning courses, published books and periodicals, online materials, customized solutions for institutions, and in-house services for lawyers at every stage of their careers.