Environmental Programs

The Environmental Protection Unit is part of the Economic Crimes Division. The unit's focus is on protecting the public from companies that violate environmental laws - violations that can threaten the natural environment or endanger public health.

The unit investigates and prosecutes matters involving unlawful treatment, transportation, storage and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. The unit also reviews industrial accidents referred by Cal OSHA. These cases involve violations of safety regulations resulting in death, serious disability or serious hazard exposures to employees.

In addition to criminal charges filed against an entity or individual, civil complaints may be initiated to prevent on-going violations and to seek monetary penalties for violations when appropriate.


The San Diego District Attorney's Office has prosecuted matters involving air quality standards; discharges of waste affecting the quality of the state's waters; underground storage tanks; violations of the Fish and Game Code; grading and brushing violations; hazardous waste violations; and fraudulent smog inspections.

Examples of San Diego Cases:

  • When a large corporation released a toxic cloud of hydrochloric acid into the air from one of their storage tanks, the Environmental Protection Unit filed charges against the company. The corporation had been using that tank even though a critical shut-off valve was inoperative and was bypassed by the company's employees. The company admitted to improperly disposing of hazardous waste. The company paid a civil penalty of $25,000, and as part of the settlement made donations of $115,000 to four local environmental organizations.
  • When a worker was killed in a fall from an elevated scissor-lift as it was moving on an unstable surface, the D.A.'s office filed charges against the employer for CAL-OSHA violations. Our prosecutors reached a civil settlement. The complaint resulted in a penalty of $13,500 and a permanent injunction against the company.
  • When the Bureau of Automotive Repair refers smog fraud cases to the D. A.'s office, The Environmental Protection Unit often prosecutes. In one case, the business owner was convicted of a felony, prohibited from engaging in smog checks during probation, and ordered to pay restitution of over $14,000.

Other resources and valuable links about environmental protection: