EPA Publishes Annual Inflation Adjustments to Civil Penalty Amounts

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On December 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its annual civil monetary penalty adjustments in the Federal Register. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015 requires federal agencies to make annual inflation adjustments to federal statutory civil penalty amounts. The annual inflation adjustments are based on a cost-of-living multiplier determined by changes to the Consumer Price Index. This year’s inflation multiplier is 1.01182.

The increased civil penalty amounts apply to every major environmental statute, including the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), among others. For these programs the civil penalty amounts increased as follows:

  • CAA civil penalties increased to $102,638 (from $101,439) per day, per violation.
  • CWA civil penalties increased to $56,460 (from $55,800) per day, per violation.
  • SDWA civil penalties increased to $59,017 (from $58,328) per day, per violation.
  • RCRA civil penalties increased to $76,764 (from $75,867) per day, per violation.
  • TSCA civil penalties increased to $41,056 (from $40,576) per day, per violation.
  • EPCRA civil penalties increased to $59,017 (from $58,328) per day, per violation.

The adjusted amounts apply to penalties assessed on or after December 23, 2020 for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, the date Congress enacted the penalty adjustment legislation. Despite these increases, the EPA continues to have discretion to take into account certain factual circumstances when issuing civil penalties, including “the seriousness of the violation, the violator’s good faith efforts to comply, any economic benefit gained by the violator as a result of its noncompliance, and a violator’s ability to pay.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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