Calling homeland security an environmental issue, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced yesterday that the Justice Department would crack down on companies that failed to protect their plants, pipelines, storage tanks, and transportation systems from terrorist attacks. The attorney general said the department would use civil and criminal lawsuits to enforce compliance with environmental and safety standards, endeavoring to eliminate leaky or explosive pipelines, unsafe storage, treatment, or disposal of chemicals and hazardous materials, and threats to the nation’s water supplies. Ashcroft might increase financial penalties for noncompliant companies to ensure that they don’t gain an economic advantage over law-abiding companies.