14 January 2020

EPA Issues Updated Maximum and Minimum Civil Penalty Adjustments

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its fourth annual civil monetary penalty adjustment, as required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. The rulemaking became effective on Monday, January 13, 2020, and will apply to all civil penalties assessed by EPA after January 13, 2020, for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015. The new civil monetary amounts are reflected in Table 1 in 40 C.F.R § 19.4 (a copy of the revised penalty table is available in EPA’s Federal Register notice here). Other civil monetary penalty adjustment amounts applicable to violations that occurred earlier in time, or assessed before January 13, 2020, are reflected elsewhere in the tables codified at 40 C.F.R. § 19.4.

The civil penalty adjustment covers the full suite of environmental statutes administered by EPA, with specific statutory references to each environmental statute. These monetary values represent new statutory maximum and minimum amounts; however, they do not change the statute-specific penalty policies that EPA uses to develop the penalty it demands to resolve a violation in a specific case. For example, many of these statute-specific penalty policies recommend that enforcement officials consider the size and sophistication of the violator, the violator’s history of compliance, the severity of the violations and the economic benefit derived from noncompliance, among other considerations, when formulating a specific penalty demand. These and other factors are likewise considered in judicial enforcement actions, where the statutes give the district court judge substantial discretion in assessing a civil penalty.

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