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Published: Saturday, 1/28/2012


Don't cook the books

Memo to polluters: Fudge your records and you may go to prison.

That get-tough message from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine accompanied the successful recent prosecution of a Findlay businessman. He was sentenced in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to pay restitution, do community service, and remain under community control for four years after his conviction for record-tampering. If he violates that sentence, he faces three years in prison.

Ohio environmental regulators, the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal investigation division all worked on the case. Toledo's Division of Environmental Services tipped them off to possible criminal violations after it noticed inaccuracies in reports filed by the defendant's company for a local metal recycler.

As the argument recurs that Ohio would make itself more business-friendly by easing up on environmental regulation, a critical distinction remains between compliance with reasonable pollution laws and cheating. Regulators rely on accurate, self-reported numbers to develop rules to protect public health.

Officials in Columbus should take notice too: Loosening environmental rules, when appropriate, should not mean easing up on enforcement.

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