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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Civil Penalties Increase, Just in Time for the Holidays!

Just in time for the holidays, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a Final Rule increasing many civil penalties for violations of environmental laws. The EPA Final Rule is effective Dec. 6, 2013, and it is important to note that the adjusted civil penalties are only applicable to violations occurring after this effective date.

At least every four years, each federal agency (including EPA) is required to adjust for inflation statutory civil penalties by issuing regulations. Inflation increases are rounded to the nearest multiple of $25,000 for the largest penalty-related number, but where the cost of living inflation adjustment is not sufficient to be rounded up to a multiple of $5,000, no change is made. For example, the Clean Air Act potential penalties for violating a State Implementation Plan (SIP) under 42 U.S.C. §7413(d)(1) are currently $37,500 per day authorized up to a total penalty amount of $295,000. With the inflation adjustment, the maximum per day penalty for SIP violations remains at $37,500, because the inflation adjustment was insufficient to round up to $5,000, but these daily penalties are now authorized up to a total penalty of $320,000. The precise calculations and process are set forth in the Federal Register (78 F.R. 66643-48, Nov. 6, 2013).

According to the Table attached to the EPA Final Rule, civil penalties increased for certain Clean Water Act; Safe Drinking Water Act; Clean Air Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act; Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act; Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act; and Certain Alaskan Cruise Ship Operations violations. Penalties for other violations, like under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, remain unchanged. The Table with the penalties by environmental statute, and all inflation adjustments since 1997, can be found in the Federal Register listing for this Final Rule here.



About this Author

Fredric Andes Environmental Attorney

Fredric P. Andes is a partner in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., offices of Barnes & Thornburg and the leader of the firm's water team. Fred is involved in counseling and litigation on issues arising under various federal and state environmental laws, with a special emphasis on Clean Water Act matters.

Fred is involved in clean water issues on the national and state levels. He was selected by the EPA to serve on the Federal Advisory Committee on the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Program. He is serving as coordinator for the Federal Water Quality Coalition, which is a group...

Charles Denton Environmental Attorney

Charlie Denton represents an array of clients in environmental and toxic tort litigation, enforcement defense, regulatory compliance solutions and pollution insurance coverage disputes. He also serves as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) neutral mediator and arbitrator. Persistent and highly collaborative, Charlie can take complicated issues and challenges and then identify a strategic path to achieve the client’s objectives.

Charlie’s representation of industrial, municipal, institutional, educational and individual clients includes judicial and administrative environmental...

Michael Elam Environmental Energy Attorney

Veteran attorney Michael Elam brings more than three decades of experience in environmental, energy, infrastructure and natural resource law in both the private and public sectors. He structures creative agreements and helps secure approvals and financing for complex national and international agreements involving the development, remediation and financing of environmentally challenged or controversial projects surrounding energy and sensitive water bodies or sources.

Michael represents businesses and other clients in complex projects and transactions, disputes and litigation. He is...

Tammy Helminski, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Environmental Law Attorney

Tammy L. Helminski is an associate in the Grand Rapids office of Barnes & Thornburg, and a member of the firm’s Environmental Law Department. Ms. Helminski has experience with environmental due diligence and risk evaluation, project management of large-scale remediation sites involving numerous parties, and assisting manufacturing and developer clients with environmental auditing and compliance. Her litigation experience includes representing clients in cases involving CERCLA, NEPA, RCRA and NREPA, as well as product liability, mold, asbestos, construction and contract litigation...