Lawmakers allow AG to create environmental crimes unit

By Chris Rizo | Jun 30, 2009

John Kroger (D)

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline)-Oregon lawmakers have authorized the attorney general's office to establish an environmental crimes unit aimed at going after polluters in the Beaver State.

Attorney General John Kroger -- who campaigned, promising to be tough on environmental scofflaws -- asked lawmakers to create the unit.

Legislation approving the unit, Senate Bill 797, was passed Monday night. The bill now awaits action by Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

In a recent interview with Legal Newsline, Kroger said the Oregon Department of Justice has a "new-found emphasis" on criminal enforcement of the state's environmental laws.

"This is a very significant priority for us," Kroger said. "We've formed a new partnership with the Department of Environmental Quality and we're very interested in aggressive enforcement of our environmental laws."

Kroger had asked the Democrat-led Oregon Legislature for $500,000 in annual funding for the environmental crimes unit. But the Legislature, which is grappling with a $3.85 billion revenue gap for the biennium beginning July 1, said the attorney general could use existing funds for the new unit.

The environmental crimes unit will start with one prosecutor and one investigator, the attorney general's office said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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