November 3, 2007

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Takes Enforcement Action Against Businesses, Business Owners and Local Units of Government 

On October 26, 2007, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced that it had resolved 65 enforcement cases during the third quarter of 2007 collecting nearly $325,000 in civil penalties.  A list of the amounts paid to the MPCA in enforcement cases can be found atwww.pca.state.mn.us/newscenter/enforcement.html.  The four cases that resulted in the greatest penalties paid to the MPCA in the third quarter of 2007 are as follows:

Winona Excavating Company, Michael’s Demolition and Recycling Inc. of Winona, Minnesota, and each company’s owners entered into a Stipulation Agreement and agreed to pay $60,000 to resolve alleged violations relating to the handling and removal of asbestos and mercury containing devices.  As part of the settlement, Winona Excavating completed a Supplemental Environmental Project, valued at $40,000, of hauling contaminated soil from a residential property.

Dayton Park Properties of Dayton, Minnesota, paid $18,418 for alleged violations relating to wastewater discharges from the mobile home park to nearby French Lake.  In a Stipulation Agreement, the MPCA alleged that Dayton Park Properties failed to notify the MPCA of an unauthorized discharge, exceeded permitted limits and was late in filing monthly operational reports.

The City of Deer Creek entered into a Stipulation Agreement and paid a penalty of $15,334 to the MPCA for alleged violations at the City’s wastewater treatment plant.  During inspections and file reviews, MPCA inspectors noted alleged violations relating to data collection and reporting, treatment plant operations and operations of septic tank pumper equipment.

Prefinishing Specialists, Inc., an Avon, Minnesota wood finishing treatment company, entered into a Stipulation Agreement with the MPCA and agreed to pay $12,082 resolving alleged hazardous waste and air quality violations.

The State of Minnesota has the authority to seek penalties of $10,000 per day of violation of environmental statutes, regulations or permits in a civil action brought in state district court through an action by the Attorney General. Minn. Stat. §115.071. If the alleged violations relate to the handling of hazardous wastes, the State may seek up to $25,000 per day of violation.

When the MPCA deems violations to be serious or repeated it may propose that a regulated party enter into a Stipulation Agreement, one of the MPCA’s enforcement tools. A Stipulation Agreement, a negotiated out-of court settlement, resolves alleged violations, provides for thepayment of a civil penalty and, in most cases, requires the completion of corrective actions.

The MPCA may elect to unilaterally issue an Administrative Penalty Order (APO) to resolve alleged violations.  Minn. Stat. § 116.072.  In an APO, the MPCA may seek a penalty of up to $10,000 for all violations observed in an inspection and order specified corrective actions.  A party receiving an APO may seek judicial review in state district court or through an expedited administrative hearing.

The vast majority of the enforcement cases resolved in the third quarter of 2007 were through APOs where regulated parties paid $10,000 or less to resolve violations.  Areas of alleged violations noted by the MPCA included: air quality, asbestos, hazardous wastes, water quality, stormwater, feedlots, and individual sewage treatment systems. The average penalty paid was under $5,000.  However, in cases where violations were noted and resolved through either aStipulation Agreement or an APO, the MPCA reserves the right to enhance penalties for future violations.

If you or your business receives an inspection notice, a Letter of Warning, a Notice of Violation (NOV), Request for Information (RFI), a Stipulation Agreement, an APO or similar notice from the MPCA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or another federal or state agency, we recommend that you immediately seek the advice of qualified counsel prior to responding.  TheMPCA and the EPA often use these notices as discovery tools where they seek admissions.

Hessian & McKasy’s Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group has extensive experience in defending enforcement actions brought by federal and state authorities, such as the MPCA and the EPA.

Hessian & McKasy’s environmental attorneys handle the full spectrum of environmental issues encountered by manufacturers, businesses, developers 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.

Please feel free to contact any of the following individuals for more information on about the issues discussed here by contacting us directly or going to the Contact page on thewww.EnviroAttorney.net site:

Joseph G. Maternowski 612-746-5754 jmaternowski@hessianmckasy.com

Source:  MPCA Website   www.pca.state.mn.us/

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

To receive www.enviroattorney.net blog updates and posts, please provide your e-mail address in the space at the top of this page.