EPA Increases Civil Monetary Penalties
On November 6, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule raising several of the maximum penalties that EPA may impose for certain violations of environmental laws. Each statute that EPA administers includes maximum (and sometimes minimum) civil penalties for violations of the statute or its implementing regulations. For example, many environmental statutes, such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Toxic Substances Control Act, include a maximum per-day penalty of $25,000.
The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (DCIA) requires EPA to review its statutory civil monetary penalties at least once every four years, and to adjust those penalties as necessary for inflation according to a formula prescribed in the DCIA. The purpose of the periodic adjustments is to maintain the deterrent effect of monetary penalties and further the policy goals of the underlying statutory programs. EPA last adjusted the penalty amounts in 2008. At that time, the standard maximum per-day penalty was increased to
Because of the low rate of inflation since 2008, the DCIA's rounding rules resulted in increases to only 20 of the 88 statutory civil penalties. The majority will remain unchanged, including the $37,500 standard maximum per-day penalty. But some of the notable penalty increases include:
- Clean Air Act: A $25,000 increase (from $295,000 to $320,000) in the maximum penalty for assessed in an administrative order (42 U.S.C. § 7413(d)(1));
- Clean Water Act: A near doubling (from $1,100 to $2,100) in the "per barrel" penalty for prohibited discharges of oil or hazardous substances (33 U.S.C. § 1321(b)(7)(A)); and
- Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act: A $10,000 increase per day (from $107,500 to $117,500 per day) for second or subsequent violations (42 U.S.C. §11045(b)(2)).
The revised penalty amounts will go into effect December 6, 2013, and will apply only to violations that occur after that date. EPA anticipates that the next adjustment will not occur until 2017. The full table of EPA's civil monetary penalties, as revised, is available at 78 Fed. Reg. 66643, 66647–48 (Nov. 6, 2013).