Posthaste Facts on the Environment #23


Paid Informant Frames Small Business

Does the EPA have too much power? The owners and employees of Higman Sand and Gravel probably think so after an armed raid on their office. For details, contact Chad Cowan at (202) 507-6398.

On August 23, 1991, 18 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agents raided Higman Sand and Gravel with guns drawn. They burst into the secretary's office, pointed a gun in her face, and yelled "don't move!" After 53 years in business and a spotless record, the owners of the Akron, Iowa-based business were shocked.

What precipitated such action? A paid informant had alerted the EPA that Higman was illegally storing hazardous waste. After searching the premises, the EPA agents did find a small quantity of paint thinner dumped on the property. That was enough for the EPA to file charges and send the case to a federal court in Sioux City. But during the course of the trial, it was discovered that the EPA's paid informant had planted the paint thinner on Higman Sand and Gravel property. Had Higman Sand and Gravel been convicted on the charges, the informant stood to profit handsomely: He was promised $24,000 on top of the $2,000 he had already received for tipping the EPA off. Who says that the EPA doesn't know how incentives work?

Source: Field hearing on regulatory reform before House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs (February 9, 1996).

Posthaste Facts on the Environment #23, published October 28, 1997 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 20 F Street NW, Suite 700 , Washington, D.C. 20001, (202) 507-6398, Fax (301) 498-1301, E-Mail [email protected]

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