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.
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
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
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.