Protecting Oregon's Environment
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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Office of the Director 

Compliance and Enforcement 

  Compliance and Enforcement Overview
Supplemental Environmental Projects
Calculation of Civil Penalties and Regulations
Questions and Answers

Compliance and Enforcement - Overview

DEQ implements and enforces state environmental laws under authority delegated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon legislature. DEQ’s policy-making body, the Environmental Quality Commission, adopts regulations proposed by DEQ to implement these laws. DEQ uses a combination of tools to ensure compliance, from public education and technical assistance to compliance inspections, investigation of complaints, assessment of civil penalties and compliance orders. First, DEQ emphasizes education and technical assistance because most businesses and individuals voluntarily comply with the laws. Regulatory compliance and pollution prevention create the best environmental results.

However, enforcement is still needed to deter those who don’t take the initiative to achieve compliance on their own or who seek to avoid costs of lawful compliance. Enforcement is also needed to maintain fairness among those who do expend the resources and make the effort to comply with environmental law. For these reasons, DEQ remains committed to an effective, consistent and visible enforcement program in addition to its voluntary programs.

When DEQ staff finds that a violation of state laws or regulations has occurred, the agency issues either a Warning Letter or a Pre-Enforcement Notice, depending on the severity of the violation. (The most severe violations may also be referred to state or federal investigators for possible criminal prosecution.) A Warning Letter is more likely to be issued for less severe violations committed for the first time; a Pre-Enforcement Notice that notifies a violator a civil penalty will likely be issued is issued for the most serious violations, or repeated violations.

Compliance and Enforcement Resources

  • Enforcement Program Impacts (General Deterrence of Environmental Violation: A Peek into the Mind of the Regulated Public)
    Civil penalties are an effective means of achieving deterrence of violations not only for the specific violator in a given case, but for others similarly situated. For a more in-depth discussion of the philosophies behind DEQ’s compliance and enforcement program, see General Deterrence of Environmental Violation: A Peek into the Mind of the Regulated Public.
  • Calculation of Civil Penalties/Regulations (Div 12)
    DEQ’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement issues civil penalties and Department Orders on behalf of DEQ’s director, who has been delegated to do so by the Environmental Quality Commission. When DEQ assesses a civil penalty, it calculates the amount of the penalty using criteria set forth in Oregon Administrative Rules Chapter 340, Division 12, Base penalties range from $100 per day for each Class III violation with a minor magnitude, to $6,000 per day for each Class I violation with a major magnitude. Base penalties may be increased or decreased depending on specific factors according to Division 12.
  • Credit for Reporting Violations - DEQ Internal Management Directive on Self-Policing, Disclosure and Penalty Mitigation
    A penalty may be greatly reduced if you discover you have committed a violation and report the violation to DEQ. For the conditions that apply to penalty reduction for self-reported violations, see this page.
  • Overview of the Enforcement Process
    If you do receive a civil penalty assessment or a Department Order, you should follow the steps outlined in the assessment documents for paying or appealing the assessment or Order. The steps to follow in such cases are explained in more detail in Overview of the Enforcement Process.
  • Penalty Mitigation - Internal Management Directive on Supplemental Environmental Projects
    The amount of a penalty may be reduced in settlement if the person funds a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) that reduces the risk of further pollution, benefits public health, restores and protects the environment, and/or promotes environmental compliance.  This document describes the conditions under which DEQ will agree to mitigate penalties with a SEP.


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For more information about the Office of Compliance and Enforcement, call 503-229-5340.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97204-1390
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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