Feb 27th, 2023

It's Now More Expensive to be Hit with Penalties for Environmental Violations

At a time when the cost of everything is on the rise, the cost of vi...

Washington D.C.

February 28, 2023

At a time when the cost of everything is on the rise, the cost of violating environmental laws remains no exception. Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a new regulation, raising the penalties for most environmental law violations. This is actually the fourth time EPA has made this “annual adjustment” under the authority of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvement Act of 2015 (the Act).

The purpose behind the Act was to “improve the effectiveness of statutory maximum and minimum civil monetary penalties and to maintain their deterrent effect, thereby promoting compliance with the law.” Put simply, the government wants to ensure when someone is hit where it hurts (their wallet) for any environmental damage they cause, the pain is real enough to provide a solid incentive for obeying the law before breaking it. The EPA has therefore taken to amending its penalty policies upward every couple of years, the most prior increase being implemented in January 2022.

Despite this fairly recent inflation hike, in January, EPA quickly raised the cost of penalty rates again. January 6, 2023, brought a 7.7% increase to violations of environmental statutes across the board. These new rates apply to violations occurring on or after November 2, 2015, where the penalties are assessed on or after January 6, 2023.

The table below shows examples of what the penalties were and what they are now for a few of the most applicable statutes:

Environmental Statute

Violations after 11/2/15, with penalties assessed on or after 1/12/22

Violations after 11/2/15, with penalties assessed on or after 1/6/23

​Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

$43,611

$46,989

Clean Water Act (CWA)

$59,973

$64,618

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

$109,024

$117,468

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

$62,689

$67,544

Clean Air Act (CAA)

$117,468

$109,024

With a span starting at just over $2,000 to well over $7,000 in increased penalties, EPA’s increase is no small jump from 2022 to 2023. Anyone with concerns regarding compliance issues relating to any environmental regulation would do well to take the time to confirm full compliance with applicable laws and consult outside advisors for any doubtful areas.

And this underscores the argument we're constantly making: that compliance with environmental laws remains good business, especially when the cost of violations will only rise from here.

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