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EPA increases statutory civil penalty fines coming soon

July 27th, 2016 by Dakota Software Staff Industry News

EPA increases statutory civil penalty fines coming soon

Much of the recent financial penalty-related news in the EHS sphere has centered around the very large increases the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will soon make to its current scale of financial penalties. However, OSHA isn't the only federal regulator of businesses and organizations to raise the financial obligation for enterprises that run afoul of its rules. The Environmental Protection Agency issued an interim final rule at the beginning of July that will give its statutory civil penalties more power through increased financial obligations for violators. The new amounts will come into effect on August 1, a relatively short timeline in the regulatory arena.

Increased consequences for EPA rule violators
Law firm McDermott, Will & Emery said the EPA will soon have the ability to levy fines as high as six figures per day in some specific circumstances, although the penalty increases aren't as high in many other instances. For example, the federal environmental regulator will make a significant increase to its penalties related to the Clean Air Act, going from the current maximum of $37,500 per day to nearly triple that amount, $93,750. An example of a substantially lower increase comes from the changes to fines stemming from noncompliance with the Clean Water Act's oil and hazardous substance discharge provisions, where the fine will increase from $37,500 to $44,539 per day.

McDermott, Will & Emery said the significant increases are the result of a delay in the updating of penalty amounts. While a number of federal agencies have a mandate in place that requires them to review and update fine structures to account for inflation, some organizations simply haven't followed through on that requirement. With the passage of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, those organizations have a new rule affecting them - one that requires annual updates to fine schedules based on inflation. OSHA's recent announcement of increase followed a similar path as the EPA's.

All businesses that are subject to the EPA's many rules and regulations need to use this time to review environmental compliance efforts and ensure full cooperation. With increased fines quickly approaching, a lack of alignment with the EPA's requirements means more severe financial burdens and generally more severe consequences for violators.

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