It wouldn’t be hard to rant how environmental protection laws appear to serve more severe punishments for folks who harm animals and wildlife than people. Environmental justice activists fight long and hard against industrial polluters who slowly kill people, but let an environmental disaster kill a fish, you’re going straight to jail and/or paying a hefty fine almost right away.
And then there’s George Smith, the fellow who discharged over 4000 gallons of gasoline from his tanker out into the shrubs and stream in Brookhaven. That’s got to be one of the most idiotic crimes I’ve ever seen.
I used to have an A-Class commercial drivers license with all the endorsements. I know the training and testing George Smith went through to be able to drive that tanker truck with all that gasoline in it. I know he knew better than to pour all that gasoline out in the woods like that. I’m probably one of the most sympathetic when it comes to people caught up in the justice system, but George Smith doesn’t get an ounce of sympathy from me.
All criminals never expect to get caught and most criminals feel some sense of justification committing their crime. But George Smith can’t justify dumping 4000 gallons of gasoline in a highly populated area, nor can George Smith think he wouldn’t be caught. What George may not have considered is how much trouble he’s in because he killed a lot of fish.
The environmental people don’t play when it comes to killing fish. Not only will you pay for every fish they find floating in the water or on the banks dead, they will dig up dirt to see if fish eggs or microscopic living organisms died, too. George Smith not only performed mass murder on fish, he killed a fox. George Smith won’t see the light of day for a long time.
Prior to the late 1980s when environmental laws were being drafted to put some enforcement teeth in the handling of hazardous waste and illegal dumping, George Smith may have joined many others who got away with this kind of stuff. But for him to think (or not think) that he could dump 4000 gallons of gasoline anywhere except into a gas station underground tank is ridiculous.
The lesson learned should be to not take lightly any environmental crime that will harm and kill wildlife. The law has very little compassion, especially if it’s not a mistake.