Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Prison or Probation? Wastewater Dumping Case Poses Familiar Question

What should the sentence be, when someone is convicted of illegally dumping mass quantities of wastewater on public and private property?

By mass quantities, I mean millions of gallons. The dumping was done by a 50-year-old Pennsylvania man, Robert Allan Shipman. He was the former owner of a business that disposed of products that included sewage sludge and restaurant grease, as well as wastewater containing byproducts from natural gas drilling.

Sadly, Shipman took the seemingly easy way out. He told his drivers to dump the water into steams and abandoned mines, and on various business properties in several western Pennsylvania counties.

Eventually, the harebrained scheme was discovered, Earlier this year, Shipman pleaded guilty to numerous criminal counts. Among them were theft, tampering with public records, and conspiracy.

Understandably, prosecutors sought a prison sentence. They argued that incarceration was needed to send a message that would deter other would-be polluters from harming the environment on such a disturbing scale.

Instead, the judge imposed a sentence of seven years of probation and 1,750 hours of community service. Shipman was also fined $100,000 and ordered to pay $257,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors are appealing the sentence, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

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