CHAPTER TWO - OFFENSE CONDUCT
PART Q - OFFENSES INVOLVING THE ENVIRONMENT
§2Q1.2. Mishandling of Hazardous or Toxic Substances or Pesticides; Recordkeeping, Tampering, and Falsification; Unlawfully Transporting Hazardous Materials in Commerce
(a) Base Offense Level: 8
(b) Specific Offense Characteristics
(1) (A) If the offense resulted in an ongoing, continuous, or repetitive discharge, release, or emission of a hazardous or toxic substance or pesticide into the environment, increase by 6 levels; or
(B) if the offense otherwise involved a discharge, release, or emission of a hazardous or toxic substance or pesticide, increase by 4 levels.
(2) If the offense resulted in a substantial likelihood of death or serious bodily injury, increase by 9 levels.
(3) If the offense resulted in disruption of public utilities or evacuation of a community, or if cleanup required a substantial expenditure, increase by 4 levels.
(4) If the offense involved transportation, treatment, storage, or disposal without a permit or in violation of a permit, increase by 4 levels.
(5) If a recordkeeping offense reflected an effort to conceal a substantive environmental offense, use the offense level for the substantive offense.
(6) If the offense involved a simple recordkeeping or reporting violation only, decrease by 2 levels.
(7) If the defendant was convicted under 49 U.S.C. § 5124 or § 46312, increase by 2 levels.
Statutory Provisions: 7 U.S.C. §§ 136j-136l; 15 U.S.C. §§ 2614 and 2615; 33 U.S.C. §§ 1319(c)(1), (2), 1321(b)(5), 1517(b); 42 U.S.C. §§ 300h-2, 6928(d), 7413, 9603(b), (c), (d); 43 U.S.C. §§ 1350, 1816(a), 1822(b); 49 U.S.C. §§ 5124, 46312. For additional statutory provision(s), see Appendix A (Statutory Index).
1. "Recordkeeping offense" includes both recordkeeping and reporting offenses. The term is to be broadly construed as including failure to report discharges, releases, or emissions where required; the giving of false information; failure to file other required reports or provide necessary information; and failure to prepare, maintain, or provide records as prescribed.
2. "Simple recordkeeping or reporting violation" means a recordkeeping or reporting offense in a situation where the defendant neither knew nor had reason to believe that the recordkeeping offense would significantly increase the likelihood of any substantive environmental harm.
3. This section applies to offenses involving pesticides or substances designated toxic or hazardous at the time of the offense by statute or regulation. A listing of hazardous and toxic substances in the guidelines would be impractical. Several federal statutes (or regulations promulgated thereunder) list toxics, hazardous wastes and substances, and pesticides. These lists, such as those of toxic pollutants for which effluent standards are published under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (e.g., 33 U.S.C. § 1317) as well as the designation of hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 9601(14)), are revised from time to time. "Toxic" and "hazardous" are defined differently in various statutes, but the common dictionary meanings of the words are not significantly different.
4. Except when the adjustment in subsection (b)(6) for simple recordkeeping offenses applies, this section assumes knowing conduct. In cases involving negligent conduct, a downward departure may be warranted.
5. Subsection (b)(1) assumes a discharge or emission into the environment resulting in actual environmental contamination. A wide range of conduct, involving the handling of different quantities of materials with widely differing propensities, potentially is covered. Depending upon the harm resulting from the emission, release or discharge, the quantity and nature of the substance or pollutant, the duration of the offense and the risk associated with the violation, a departure of up to two levels in either direction from the offense levels prescribed in these specific offense characteristics may be appropriate.
6. Subsection (b)(2) applies to offenses where the public health is seriously endangered. Depending upon the nature of the risk created and the number of people placed at risk, a departure of up to three levels upward or downward may be warranted. If death or serious bodily injury results, a departure would be called for. See Chapter Five, Part K (Departures).
7. Subsection (b)(3) provides an enhancement where a public disruption, evacuation or cleanup at substantial expense has been required. Depending upon the nature of the contamination involved, a departure of up to two levels either upward or downward could be warranted.
8. Subsection (b)(4) applies where the offense involved violation of a permit, or where there was a failure to obtain a permit when one was required. Depending upon the nature and quantity of the substance involved and the risk associated with the offense, a departure of up to two levels either upward or downward may be warranted.
9. Other Upward Departure Provisions.—
(A) Civil Adjudications and Failure to Comply with Administrative Order.—In a case in which the defendant has previously engaged in similar misconduct established by a civil adjudication or has failed to comply with an administrative order, an upward departure may be warranted. See §4A1.3 (Departures Based on Inadequacy of Criminal History Category).
(B) Extreme Psychological Injury.—If the offense caused extreme psychological injury, an upward departure may be warranted. See §5K2.3 (Extreme Psychological Injury).
(C) Terrorism.—If the offense was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct, an upward departure would be warranted. See Application Note 4 of the Commentary to §3A1.4 (Terrorism).
Background: This section applies both to substantive violations of the statute governing the handling of pesticides and toxic and hazardous substances and to recordkeeping offenses. The first four specific offense characteristics provide enhancements when the offense involved a substantive violation. The fifth and sixth specific offense characteristics apply to recordkeeping offenses. Although other sections of the guidelines generally prescribe a base offense level of 6 for regulatory violations, §2Q1.2 prescribes a base offense level of 8 because of the inherently dangerous nature of hazardous and toxic substances and pesticides. A decrease of 2 levels is provided, however, for "simple recordkeeping or reporting violations" under §2Q1.2(b)(6).
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1993 (see Appendix C, amendment 481); November 1, 1997 (see Appendix C, amendment 553); November 1, 2004 (see Appendix C, amendment 672); November 1, 2010 (see Appendix C, amendment 746).