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Laws Related to Environmental Hazards


When a cluster of cancer cases showed up in Satellite Beach, some immediately suspected an environmental hazard as the culprit. After all, what other explanation could there be for having 17 cases of cancer among individuals of the same approximate ages and in the same general area? And with Patrick Air Force Base right next door, famous for its use of chemicals, what are the chances that toxins made it into the underground water supply, or the nearby lagoon? It seems more than possible.  Nonetheless, epidemiologists caution that proving the Satellite Beach cancer cases are linked to one another, let alone to an environmental factor, will be no easy task. Many such investigations prove to be incredibly costly, prolonged, and very often, inconclusive. As real as the concern for cancers victims is, determining the causes for illness is not cut and dried; experienced epidemiologists must team up with adept lawyers in these situations.

Environmental Law 

The federal government, through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been tasked with regulating corporate & government behavior in order to manage, protect, and clean up the environment. The range of protections is vast.  Key areas include:

  • Air quality: Laws are designed to minimize air pollution and ozone depletion;
  • Water quality: The management of run off, the treatment of waste water, and response to polluted water are all under the purview of the EPA;
  • Cleanup Projects: Protocols for contaminant cleanup and penalties for polluters are determined by the EPA;
  • Chemical Safety: The EPA develops regulations related to chemicals like pesticides and cleaning products, and the use of chemicals in products like plastic bottles.


There are both criminal and civil statutes that address pollution violations, which differ in three key ways:

Civil Enforcement Criminal Enforcement
Legal Standard An environmental violation occurs An environmental violation occurs with some degree of intent
Burden of Proof Preponderance of evidence Beyond a reasonable doubt
Results Notice of violation and order to comply and/or conduct necessary cleanup Fines and/or imprisonment


Details Regarding Enforcement Results 

Civil cases will often result in a combination of outcomes:

  • Settlements and consent decrees to address the issues;
  • Monetary fines to incentivize entities to resolve issues or to recapture lost economic benefits due to noncompliance;
  • Injunctive relief to bring an entity into EPA compliance;
  • Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) and Mitigation taken on by violators to address environmental issues beyond the violations.

Criminal cases are more punitive in nature:

  • Fines may be imposed for restitution to anyone impacted by the violation;
  • Prison time may be assigned to individuals who were responsible for violations.

Defending Against Violations 

Unquestionably, being charged with an EPA violation is serious business, and you need a serious, knowledgeable legal defense. Environmental regulations are shifting every day. You want a lawyer dedicated to understanding past and current laws, and able to provide the best defense possible. Attorney Deric Zacca at the office of Deric Zacca, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale is a Florida Bar Board Certified Lawyer with over 20 years of experience in criminal litigation.  Schedule a consultation with him at the Fort Lauderdale office today.