April 30, 2009

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) collected over $1 million in civil penalties in various environmental enforcement actions in the first quarter of 2009. The MPCA is charged with issuing environmental permits, conducting inspections of regulated parties and, where alleged violations are found, initiating enforcement actions. Typically, enforcement actions require corrective actions and the payment of a civil penalty.

The $1 million penalty total seems large, but it is somewhat distorted. Three quarters of the total penalties that were collected were in a single matter involving alleged air quality violations at a taconite operation in northern Minnesota. According to the MPCA, the penalty the regulated party paid to the MPCA in a negotiated Stipulation Agreement was $776,000. More detailed information provided by the MPCA indicates that a civil penalty of $642,000 together with a Supplemental Environmental Project (in lieu of a penalty) valued at $125,000. This large penalty ranks as one of the top penalties ever collected by the MPCA.

Other penalties collected in the first quarter of 2009 ranged from $60,000 to $500. Penalties were assessed for alleged violations of asbestos, stormwater, water quality, hazardous waste, solid waste, feedlot and individual septic system regulations.

A copy of the MPCA’s release about its first quarter 2009 enforcement action penalties can be found at: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/news/data/newsRelease.cfm?NR=281025&type=2. A table reflecting the details of all the MPCA enforcement actions in the first quarter is found at:http://www.pca.state.mn.us/newscenter/qs-1-09.pdf. In cases of larger penalties the MPCA typically issues a press release publicizing the case.

The vast majority of the enforcement actions resulted in penalties of less than $10,000. The MPCA favors the issuance of Administrative Penalty Orders (APOs) which are issued unilaterally to alleged violators. A party has the right to seek review of an APO before a district court judge or an administrative law judge.

Joseph Maternowski, Chair of Hessian & McKasy’s Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group, advises clients who face federal, state and local enforcement actions. Mr. Maternowski, an experienced environmental lawyer, assists with the negotiation of matters where authorities seek civil penalties for past noncompliance. To learn more about the legal service packages that we at the Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group provide to our clients, please visit:http://www.enviroattorney.net/sample-price-list.php. For information about Mr. Maternowski and his practice please see: http://www.enviroattorney.net/includes/new_resume0309.pdf

The views expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, Hessian & McKasy. P.A.

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