March 24, 2010
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) concluded 56 enforcement cases totaling $2,010,744 in penalties in 56 enforcement cases during the fourth quarter of 2009. The cases occurred at facilities in 36 counties throughout Minnesota. For all of calendar year 2009, 229 cases were concluded by the MPCA totaling $3,974,422 in penalties. 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 $2 million penalty total for the 4th Quarter of 2009 seems large. Three separate cases involving allegations of air quality and water quality regulations and permits terms at ethanol and energy plants located in rural Minnesota accounted for over $1,720,000 of the penalties collected in the 4th Quarter of 2009.
Other penalties collected in the first quarter of 2009 ranged from $60,000 to $500. Penalties were assessed against businesses across the State of Minnesota 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 fourth quarter 2009 enforcement action penalties can be found at:http://www.pca.state.mn.us/news/data/newsRelease.cfm?NR=283109&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/publications/enforcementsummary-4q09.pdf. In cases of larger penalties (over $10,000) 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.
Before sending an APO, the MPCA typically conducts an inspection or a document review and sends a letter to the regulated party alleging violations and asking that party to supply the MPCA with any additional information that should be considered. A party’s response is critical to the outcome of the matter. At this point, a party should consider seeking counsel from an attorney with experience in environmental laws to provide advice and, if appropriate, prepare a response to allegations.
Joseph Maternowski, an environmental lawyer with over 25 years experience, serves as Chair of Hessian & McKasy’s Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group. He advises clients who face federal, state and local enforcement actions. He assists with the negotiation of matters where authorities seek civil penalties for past noncompliance. When cases cannot be settled, he defends clients in administrative and judicial proceedings. We offer legal service packages to our clients to assess their potential liability exposure. For more information about our services, please see: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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