March 25, 2019

March 25, 2019

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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, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Chicago and Washington DC, Environmental and Litigation Law Attorney

Fredric P. Andes is a partner in the Chicago and Washington, D.C. offices of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, an administrator of the Environmental Department and the leader of the firm's water team. Mr. Andes 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.

Mr. Andes 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...

Charles Denton, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids and Atlanta, Environmental and Litigation Law Attorney

Charles M. Denton is a partner in the Grand Rapids and Atlanta offices of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and is a member of the firm’s national Environmental Law Department, which was recently recognized as Tier 1 for National Environmental Law and Environmental Litigation in the annual “Best Law Firms” ranking by U.S. News and Best Lawyers. He focuses his practice on environmental agency enforcement defense, toxic torts and class action litigation, “Brownfields” redevelopment, environmental compliance counseling, pollution insurance coverage and alternative dispute...

Michael Elam, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Chicago, Environmental Law Attorney

Michael H. Elam is a partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Chicago office and a member of the firm’s Environmental Law Department, Global Services Practice Group and Federal Relations Practice Group.

Mr. Elam brings more than 30 years of experience in environment, energy, and natural resource law, policy, and risk management to the firm. Mr. Elam focuses his practice on securing permits, approvals and complex agreements related to the development, remediation and financing of environmentally challenged or controversial projects often involving...

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...