On August 1, 2016, an interim final rule put forth by the EPA went into effect that increases the statutory civil monetary penalty for the statutes that it administers. According to the EPA, this increase was needed to reflect current and plan for future inflation. This rule will have immediate repercussions for any violation of EPA statutes, roughly doubling the maximum penalties for most violations.
The EPA, like other federal agencies, has been required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 to review and revise its statutory monetary amounts every four years to account for inflation, but significant adjustments had not been made for several years. This new rule will require the EPA to provide annual cost-of-living adjustments to their statutory penalty amounts to reflect inflation starting January 2017.
In addition, the rule includes an initial catch-up cost of living adjustment for each civil penalty. For CERCLA, this new rule allows the EPA to levy penalties between $53,907 and $161,721, which is about 40% higher than the previous maximum limits of $37,500 to $117,500. These values can be stipulated per violation or per day, depending on the nature of the non-compliance with CERCLA requirements.
Parties that stay in compliance with CERCLA requirements will likely be shielded from the effects of these increases, while those that ignore orders or other general requirements will face significantly increased costs. Keeping compliant with current EPA rules and planning ahead for future regulation changes reduces risk while saving you money in the long run.