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Long Island, New York, lawyer Linda A. Spahr is in Malaysia for 10 days to show the southeastern Asian country how to get tough on environmental crime, New York-style. The bureau chief for the Suffolk County, N.Y., District Attorney’s Environmental Crime Unit, Ms. Spahr wears a variety of hats as an expert in prosecuting environmental criminals and teaching others how to do so. Last week, Malaysia became one of her pupils as a result of her appointment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to design and lead a training course for the Malaysian Department of Environment. Malaysian officials hope that this new program will help them turn back the tide of escalating illegal dumping by learning how to find violators and successfully prosecute them. With the advent of Malaysia industrialization, illegal waste disposal from factories is on the rise. Over the last two months, Malaysian newspapers have reported incidents of the illegal discarding of hazardous waste including paint solvents, biological waste and sludge containing aluminum. Recently, an industrial plant began openly burning its waste after being cited by the DOE for illegally dumping on its property. To solve what they see as a major problem, Malaysian officials asked the United States for its assistance through the U.S.-Asia Environmental Partnership (US-AEP). And they made one other request: that Spahr lead the way. Malaysian officials learned of Spahr’s talents two years ago, when she gave a detailed presentation at an international conference in Monterey, Calif. on the ways to successfuly prosecute environmental lawbreakers. Spahr, the sole U.S. delegate at the conference, also offered an overview of Suffolk County’s battle with illegal hazardous waste dumping, a problem similar to that currently faced by Malaysia. After the conference, Spahr was approached to head a program there, but travel expenses were not available. Undiscouraged, Malaysian officials applied to the US-AEP for program funding more than a year later, and received approval. When Spahr’s name came up as their choice for leadership, Cheryl Wasserman, Associate Director for Policy Analysis in the Office of Federal Activities, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance for the USEPA, gave the go-ahead for Spahr to represent the United States. ‘A NATIONAL JEWEL’ “She is a national jewel,” Wasserman said of Spahr. “We believe that she is the premiere prosecutor in the country in the area of environmental crime and enforcement.” It was Spahr’s extensive experience and talent as a resourceful prosecutor that not only attracted Malaysia’s eye, but that of Suffolk District Attorney James M. Catterson. When looking to fill the spot of bureau chief in his newly-formed environmental crime unit in 1990, he recruited Spahr. She had already established herself as a top-notch investigative prosecutor in the DA’s office of Suffolk County’s Special Investigation Unit, the Rackets/White Collar Crime Bureau and as deputy bureau chief of the Rackets Bureau in her eight years as an assistant district attorney. When asked if she was interested in moving to environmental crime, she had no hesitation. “This is a dream job,” she said. “Catterson wanted someone aggressive and pro-active to take charge. We have the finest lab, and don’t have to use outside labs. We have enforcement already in place in the health department, special investigators in the office and the most experienced team anywhere in the country. All the pieces are here.” Spahr added that her move into the environmental arena from practicing in the world of organized crime and rackets, sting operations and multi-jurisdictional investigations was a natural. SIMILAR TECHNIQUES USED “The same investigative techniques are used in prosecuting environmental crimes,” she said. “Investigative work and the ways that you think about how to find the bad guys and put them behind bars are second-nature to me. The focus on the crimes being committed has shifted, but not the basic ways they are investigated and prosecuted.” Spahr is a national academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia, the chair of the environmental subcommittee for the New York State District Attorneys Association, a board member of the EPA’s National Enforcement Training Institute and a member of the Suffolk County Terrorism Task Force and the Suffolk County Pine Barrens Commission Law Enforcement Council. She is a sought-after speaker and has delivered lectures throughout the country on a variety of environmental law issues. The prospect of tackling this new challenge of helping Malaysia get a handle on its environmental problems is an exciting one for Spahr. “This is the coolest thing,” she said. “Not only do I get to teach the program, I get to design it as well. It’s exciting to be able to create a program from the ground up and tailor it to the specific needs of the people you are trying to assist.” LEAVING THURSDAY Spahr began the 27-hour flight on July 6 with the program’s co-designer, Fred L. Burnside, special agent in charge of international training for the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Colorado. The pair met for the first time when they arrived in San Francisco and continued on to Malaysia to begin the six-day intensive training program. In Malaysia, Spahr anticipated a lot of listening to the concerns expressed by the 30 members of the DOE and looked forward to becoming educated about the Malaysian legal system. Spahr also expected to discuss the importance of looking at an illegal dumping site as a crime scene. She explained that public safety is always of primary importance when potentially hazardous materials have been dumped. But the preservation of forensic evidence must be as important an item, so criminals can be found and prosecuted successfully. “Basic evidence such as tire tracks, fingerprints on drums, taking samples of the materials for forensic analysis are not being done,” she said. “Evidence is being destroyed or collected in such a way that it’s not standing up in court.” FACTORS CITED She explained that successfully prosecuting environmental cases involves myriad factors: � Knowledge of current existing laws. � Teams of experienced professionals including those who collect the hazardous substances � Police officials who collect evidence in ways that will hold up in court. � Lab-processing that is quick and can change as necessary. Part of the problem is that people trained to deal with hazardous waste are not police officers, and police officers are not authorized to enter areas with toxic materials for their personal safety, Spahr said. Police personnel are not routinely trained on how to don protective suits and collect potentially hazardous material for evidence. Environmental crime is a specialized area and competes for enforcement personnel, she said. After the Malaysian training session is complete, Spahr and Burnside will head home to analyze the training. They then will begin designing subsequent sessions to bring Malaysian DOE officials to the United States for observation and additional education. Spahr graduated from Long Island’s Hofstra University School of Law in 1979. A resident of Hauppauge, New York, she earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Hofstra in 1976.

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