“Isolated” EPA enforcement abuse

Louisiana plant manager Hubert Vidrine has won a rare $1.7 million verdict against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for malicious prosecution, with a judge lambasting EPA’s enforcement apparatus for “reckless and callous disregard” of Vidrine’s rights. Agency defenders say it was an isolated case of a rogue agent, a proposition I examine in my latest Cato post. More: Orin Kerr, Volokh.


  • Oh, good. I am pleased as punch to watch EPA apparatchiks spend my tax money this way.


  • The US Attorney who prosecuted is primarily to blame and not the jackasses at the EPA. The issue was whether used oil held in tanks (and obvious to everyone but the EPA and the US Attorney that is was meant for recycling and not for illegal dumping) was “hazardous waste” within the meaning of the regulations, and the regulations themselves distinguish used oil meant for recycling and illegally dumped used oil. In other words, the oil is not hazardous waste when recycled, but is hazardous waste if is illegally dumped. There are also some technical considerations such as the amount of halogenation of the used oil. But the bottom line is that the EPA itself was torn as to whether used oil was hazardous waste and finally came up with regulations to classify it by whether or not the oil is illegally dumped. Proving beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that the company’s used oil in a tank was hazardous waste was an insurmountable task.

    IMHO, unless the substance is ultrahazardous so that the mere possession of it is a danger to the environment or small leaks present major dangers, no permit should be required. If there is illegal dumping of any long term toxic substance, including used oil, then the EPA and prosecutorial authorities should step in.

    And there should be some kind of accounting for any potentially toxic substance, including used oil whereby the inflow to the holding tanks is noted and the outflow sent for recycling is noted.

  • and why exactly was it necessary to show up with SWAT gear, etc? The same thing with Gibson. Even if they had a case, which they don’t seem to have based on the lack of any charges filed in either raid, there is no reason to show up with anything but clipboards.

    Did I read the year correctly…1996 ?? How can it take 10 years to prove that oil in a storage tank isn’t illegal dumping ?? Good thing those EPA guys are cracking down on oil recycling.