Blowing The Whistle On Polluters
Brown, LLC offers free consultations for environmental whistleblowers and can walk you through how to blow the whistle on polluters. You don’t have to wait for the government to do something about pollution. Concerned citizens can use the power of the courts to stop polluters cold.
False Claims Act Suits
You can stop companies that use fraud in order to get around anti-pollution laws. A few examples:
- The Omega Protein Company, a fish oil company, fraudulently certified in an application for a government loan that it would comply with all relevant environmental laws. In reality, the company was illegally dumping various pollutants into Southern Louisiana rivers. A whistleblower brought suit which settled in 2019, with the company stopping its dumping and paying over $1 million to the government. For doing his part to protect the environment, the whistleblower received $200,000 from the government’s recover
- B. Charles Rogers Gas Ltd., a gas marketing company, agreed in 2019 to pay the U.S. $4.375 million to resolve claims under the False Claims Act that it had fraudulently under-reported the volume and value of natural gas they purchased from producers who had federal gas leases, resulting in underpaying royalties to the U.S.
- In a case currently in the District of New Jersey, two employees of a New York harbor tour-boat company allege that their company fraudulently represented on government loan applications that it was in compliance with numerous environmental laws. They allege that the company routinely dumps sewage, garbage, waste oil, fuel, coolant, batteries, and aluminum shavings into the waterways around New York and New Jersey.
Note that these cases all involved fraudulent misrepresentations in order to obtain, keep, or avoid having to return government funds. That’s the essential component of a case under the False Claims Act, which allows private individuals to bring lawsuits on behalf of the government when they’re aware of a company defrauding the government. A company that’s found liable can end up paying a lot: under the federal FCA (and similar laws in many states), the government can recover up to three times the amount of actual damage, plus penalties. And the person who brings the suit – the whistleblower – is entitled to a share of what the government recovers, in some cases up to 30%.
In addition to the sorts of fraud in the examples above, FCA suits may also be brought where a company:
- makes false representations to avoid or minimize environmental fines.
- overcharges the government on contracts for environmental cleanup projects.
- has a government contract that requires compliance with environmental laws, yet fails to comply.
- wrongfully claims tax credits designed to encourage conservation or renewable energy.
Fraudsters are very creative, and we can’t possibly give examples of all the sorts of environmental-related frauds that companies have (and, no doubt, will) come up with. But if they’re polluting our air, water, or land, and defrauding the government while doing so, a False Claims Act suit may be the best way to stop them. Call the environmental whistleblower lawyers at Brown, LLC at (877) 561-0000 for a free consultation.
Suits Under Specific Environmental Laws
You don’t have to wait for the government to do something to stop companies from polluting. In addition to suits under the FCA, as described above, individuals can use the “citizen suit” and whistleblower provisions in many state and federal environmental laws to stop polluters. Substantial whistleblower awards are available under many federal environmental laws for individuals who report violations. Key statutes include:
- The Endangered Species Act, which provides for the conservation and protection of threatened or endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they live. The law bars the import, export, possession, sale, delivery, or transport of any endangered fish or wildlife, and provides for a whistleblower award “to any person who furnishes information which leads to an arrest, a criminal conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property for any violation” of the law. The award amount is determined by the government.
- The Lacey Act, which regulates the importation of any species protected by international or domestic law, and also prevents the spread of invasive or non-native species. Like the Endangered Species Act, the Lacey Act provides for a whistleblower award “to any person who furnishes information which leads to an arrest, a criminal conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property for any violation” of the law. The award amount is determined by the government.
- The Wild Bird Conservation Act, which protects exotic bird species and encourages wild bird conservation programs by barring the importation of certain designated exotic birds. Individuals providing information leading to the apprehension of violators may be eligible for cash rewards.
- The Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act, which includes whistleblower rewards for those reporting violations of “any laws administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service relating to fish, wildlife, or plants.” This broad provision makes financial rewards for wildlife whistleblowers available under more than 40 different wildlife laws, including the African Elephant Conservation Act; the Airborne Hunting Act; the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act; the Marine Mammal Protection Act; the Migratory Bird Act; the National Wildlife Refuge System; the American Fisheries Act; the Dolphin Protection Act; the Fisherman’s Protective Act; the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act; the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act; and the Sustainable Fisheries Act – to name just a few of the covered statues.
- The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, which makes it a federal crime to knowingly violate certain federal and international pollution laws. The dumping of oil-based pollutants and other enumerated substances is one of the primary APPS violations. Other typical violations include keeping false records of discharges, and disabling or interfering with alarms or monitoring equipment. Whistleblowers, even if not U.S. nationals, can receive up to one-half of collected fines or civil penalties. For instance, in June 2017, the DOJ successfully secured a settlement against two shipping companies for discharging oily waste and dumping garbage into the Gulf of Mexico. The crew member who blew the whistle to the Coast Guard received roughly $950,000 for his tip. As of 2017, the APPS had generated over $33 million in whistleblower rewards to individuals and groups.
- The Clean Air Act, one of our best-known environmental laws, authorizes awards of up to $10,000 for information about violations. Strangely, this provision is seldom used.
Pollution and resource depletion are major problems in our world today. Fortunately, the law gives you the ability to fight and some incentives to do so. It’s important to do it the right way, so if you’re aware of a company polluting the environment, speak with our environmental whistleblower lawyers today.