Looks like the FBI is finally getting involved in Flint's water crisis as the Obama administration is bringing major resources to bear, investigating Michigan officials to see if federal laws were broken.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Tuesday it was joining a criminal investigation of lead-contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan, exploring whether laws were broken in a crisis that has captured international attention.
Federal prosecutors in Michigan were working with an investigative team that included the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General and the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit said.
An FBI spokeswoman said the agency was determining whether federal laws were broken, but declined further comment.
Of course, a largely Republican-controlled Congress over the last several decades has made sure that criminal charges for environmental disasters are very, very tough to bring.
The ability to seek criminal charges under U.S. environmental laws is limited, according to Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former federal prosecutor. Prosecutors would need to find something egregious like a knowingly false statement.
“You need something that is false to build a case,” he said.Simply failing to recognize the seriousness of the situation would not rise to that level, Henning added.
Actually poisoning the water through gross negligence or incompetence apparently isn't a criminal act when it affects tens of thousands, but lying about it or trying to cover it up is another story. We'll see what the Feds can find in Flint.