January 10, 2008
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state environmental agencies, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), have prioritized the inspection of stormwater controls and permitting compliance at construction sites. Federal and state regulations require developers and builders to obtain permits and prepare and comply with Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs). The regulations and compliance requirements are very detailed. Due to inherent changes occurring in construction projects and site-specific conditions, maintaining strict compliance with SWPPP terms and requirements is often extremely challenging.
When inspectors from the EPA or the MPCA conduct inspections at construction sites and observe conditions that they determine to constitute violations of the permit or the SWPPP, the EPA or the MPCA may initiate enforcement actions seeking penalties and corrective actions.
During the past year, enforcement actions against developers, builders and contractors have been on the rise. Within the past year the MPCA initiated 48 stormwater enforcement cases and collected over $400,000 in civil penalties in these cases. The average penalty paid in the stormwater enforcement actions brought by the MPCA was $8,417.
The MPCA has the authority to seek civil penalties of $10,000 per day of violation of environmental statutes, regulations or permits including provisions of SWPPPs that are incorporated in stormwater permits. The MPCA typically resolves cases with alleged stormwater violations through negotiated Stipulation Agreements, out-of-court settlements, or through Administrative Penalty Orders where penalties are capped at $10,000 per inspection.
Within the past year the MPCA chose to seek higher levels of civil penalties in certain cases where alleged stormwater violations were observed.
Hessian & McKasy’s Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group has extensive experience in responding to notices of violation and defending enforcement actions brought by federal and state authorities, such as the EPA and the MPCA. Our environmental lawyers routinely represent clients in contested enforcement proceedings and permitting matters. We have helped clients prepare for inspections by assisting with environmental and health and safety audits and the development of environmental management systems that are designed to detect and prevent violations. As environmental attorneys we advise clients of all their available options including reaching negotiated settlements or, when appropriate, seeking judicial review of agency action.
Hessian & McKasy’s environmental attorneys handle the full spectrum of environmental issues encountered by developers, property owners, manufacturers, businesses and individuals who have been named in an administrative, civil or criminal enforcement actions. We are regularly involved in negotiations on behalf of our clients with state and federal authorities. When a negotiated settlement cannot be reached and the MPCA makes a litigation referral, we have represented clients in matters in federal or state district court.
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Joseph G. Maternowski 612-746-5754 firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, Hessian & McKasy P.A.
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