DA SINI, NYS SENATOR KAMINSKY, STATE & LOCAL OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE PROPOSED LEGISLATION TO COMBAT ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES & ILLEGAL DUMPING
Proposed Legislation Would Enact Recommendations from Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Special Grand Jury Report
Click Here to Read the Full Report
(HAUPPAUGE, N.Y.) – Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini and New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky were joined by state and local officials and environmental leaders today to announce proposed legislation that will strengthen law enforcement’s ability to protect New York State and its residents from environmental crimes.
“As the Special Grand Jury determined, New York State needs laws that are clearer and laws that have more severe penalties for people who are polluting our environment and risking contaminating our aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for Long Island,” District Attorney Sini said. “This proposed legislation will give prosecutors the tools they need to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes and hold those individuals accountable who would pollute our communities to line their pockets. We have been working together across levels of government as well as with environmentalists, law enforcement, and scientists to determine and enact the necessary changes in order to protect our residents and the environment. I thank Sen. Kaminsky and all of our partners for being a part of this critical effort.”
“After District Attorney Sini’s Grand Jury report exposed serious gaps in our State laws, today I have introduced a comprehensive anti-dumping bill that will add new and tougher crimes and penalties for those who seek to pollute our environment and neighborhoods,” said Senator Todd Kaminsky, Chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee. “My Senate colleagues and I are looking forward to the passage of this bill, that will increase transparency, accountability and will deter bad actors in the solid waste disposal and sand mining industries.”
Earlier this week, District Attorney Sini announced the findings of an in-depth, year-long investigation by a Suffolk County Supreme Court Special Grand Jury, empaneled by District Attorney Sini in July 2018, into the commission and effects of illegal dumping and other environmental crimes on Long Island. District Attorney Sini and Sen. Kaminsky have been working with partners at all levels of government since the unsealing of two criminal indictments brought forth by the Special Grand Jury, known as “Operation Pay Dirt,” in 2018 to create legislation that effectively combats environmental crime.
The proposed legislation unveiled today, which will be sponsored by Sen. Kaminsky in the New York State Senate as bill S6758, will amend New York State Penal Law and Environmental Conservation Law to establish certain crimes relating to the disposal, possession and acceptance of solid waste and hazardous substances and to establish crimes related to sand mining.
The new criminal statutes that will be added to the Penal Law are as follows:
The new legislation also amends the criminal statute of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree to include conspiracies to commit criminal disposal.
In addition, the new legislation will require documentation of all movement of solid waste, construction and demolition material, limited use fill, and restricted use fill from the point of origin to the point of final disposition, also known as “from cradle to grave.” Amendments to the Penal Law will criminalize the failure to maintain solid waste tracking documentation or the creation of false entries in solid waste tracking documentation.
The bill will be introduced in the New York State Assembly by Assemblyman Steve Stern.
“Operation Pay Dirt” was an investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Police Department into a scheme to illegally dispose of solid waste and construction & demolition material at residential and commercial properties across Long Island. In connection with the investigation, the Special Grand Jury issued two separate criminal indictments: a 130-count indictment charging 30 individuals and 9 corporations; and a 5-count indictment charging one additional corporation. The indictments signified the largest illegal dumping case in New York State history. All of the defendants charged in the first indictment have pleaded guilty and the ringleader was recently sentenced to two to four years in state prison.
STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT
Senator Phil Boyle: “I commend Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini’s office for working together with the state legislature on bipartisan legislation to address illegal dumping of solid waste and hazardous materials and irresponsible sand mining in Suffolk County. This critical legislation betters criminal laws by putting in place more severe penalties for pollution, establishes unprecedented tracking of hazardous substances, targets organized crime, and provides victim compensation, all of which will work towards preserving our environment, bettering our health, and protecting underserved communities impacted by these heinous crimes.”
Senator Anna M. Kaplan: “Illegal dumping is a crime of greed that puts the safety of Long Island families at risk, plain and simple. I’m proud to support legislation by DA Tim Sini and Senator Todd Kaminsky that will prevent future crimes and finally give our law enforcement the tools they need to prosecute bad actors who poison our communities.”
Senator Monica R. Martinez: “The Third Senatorial District has been plagued by some of the worst illegal dumping scandals in our state’s history; specifically with the illegal dumping of 50k tons of toxic debris at Roberto Clemente Park located in Brentwood. I would like to thank our District Attorney Tim Sini for taking on this fight and bringing charges against those who commit egregious crimes on vulnerable communities. We must take the necessary steps to protect our communities and our precious natural resources such as the Island’s aquifer. The introduction of this legislation, will equip prosecutors with the tools they need to hold unscrupulous and greedy dumpers accountable for their actions. We are putting every individual on notice - If you illegally dump hazardous material, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Today goes to show that when you diligently and persistently fight for what is right, justice always prevails.”
Assemblyman Joseph DeStefano: “I congratulate District Attorney Tim Sini on his success with Operation Pay Dirt and for helping bring about the creation of new laws that will make a difference in protecting our natural resources. Law enforcement definitely needs new weapons to combat environmental crimes.”
Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick: “I appreciate the effort that District Attorney Sini put into this issue and I am thankful for the Special Grand Jury Report and its recommendations. I am eager to return to Albany in January and cosponsor this legislation. We have struggled for many years at the local level with illegal dumping and illegal sand mining, and this is an appropriate response to a problem that, unless dealt with in the strongest possible terms, will continue to haunt communities all over the State of New York, but particularly those on Long Island.”
Deputy Majority Leader Assemblyman Phil Ramos: “As a representative of a diverse community that has historically been a victim of environmental racism, I commend the District Attorney Tim Sini and Senator Kaminsky for authoring this historic legislation that will begin to bring some restorative justice to a community that has been repeatedly put at risk by wealthy corporate polluters.”
Assemblyman Doug Smith: “I proudly stand with District Attorney Tim Sini in working to modernize our laws to protect the people of Long Island from illegal dumping and sand mining. These heinous acts destroy our communities, contaminate our drinking water, and jeopardize public health. I am happy to co-sponsor this legislation and look forward to fighting to ensure it becomes law next year.”
Assemblyman Steve Stern: “I am proud to stand with Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini, Senator Todd Kaminsky and my colleagues to sponsor critically needed legislation in the New York State Assembly to impose criminal liability for illegal dumping of toxic materials in our communities. This is long overdue, and I congratulate DA Sini for his determined efforts to prosecute those who knowingly profit from poisoning our communities by selling toxic materials as clean fill. These poisons not only endanger local areas, with a disparate impact on poorer and minority communities, but also endanger us all by contaminating our sole-source aquifer that provides is with the water we drink. I look forward to working together to provide our District Attorney and our local law enforcement with the necessary tools to ensure a crackdown on these criminals and a cleanup of the dangerous mess that impacts us all.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone: “Suffolk County has 50,000 acres of open space, which makes us an easy target for illegal dumping. The only way to stop it is to let criminals know that if they engage in that behavior, they’re going to get caught and pay the consequences. The District Attorney has sent a very clear message: if you choose to dump on our communities, we will arrest you and we will prosecute you. The days of individuals being able to get away with this kind of criminal activity are over. I want to thank District Attorney Sini, Senator Kaminsky and all of my colleagues at the state and local level for working together on this issue.”
Dr. James L. Tomarken, Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services: “The Suffolk County Department of Health Services supports the new proposed legislation for illegal dumping. The department has been involved in assessing the impacts to the environment and Suffolk County residents as well as the remediation process of these sites. This legislation will provide the tools needed for both a more rigorous approval process and law enforcement.”
TOWN OF BROOKHAVEN:
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine: “Our aquifer is one of our most precious resources on Long Island, and it has increasingly come under attack by illegal dumpers and sand miners. In Brookhaven, we have aggressively pursued those that would endanger our water supply for their own personal gain. I want to thank District Attorney Sini and our state senators for their leadership in addressing this critical issue.”
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment: “Illegal polluters may not steal our belongings, but they rob us of our health, and that is a crime. It is critical we treat those that pollute our groundwater, expose us to toxics and harm our future as the criminals they really are. There are toxic sites across our island that may have been prevented had the law allowed a jail sentence for the polluter. I am delighted that this legislation has been written and will work hard to advance it in the upcoming legislative session.”