Environmental Expert Outlines Steps to Take If Your Company Receives An Enforcement Action From A Regulatory Agency

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When a company receives a notice from a regulatory agency, it is important that the right steps are taken to avoid further legal action. Fenstermaker Environmental Specialist Shontà Moore, gives valuable advice on what to do after an enforcement action is issued.

Failure to report air emissions can lead to enforcement actions issued by regulatory agencies.

The best way to deal with enforcement actions is to avoid them all together.

Dealing with enforcement actions from a regulatory agency can be time consuming and costly. In most cases when an enforcement action has been issued, a violation was discovered, either during an inspection conducted at the facility or through an internal records review. Regardless of how the violation(s) was identified, the facility is out of compliance. Environmental Specialist Shontà Moore offers a step-by-step overview of what to do to properly address the situation.

First things first. Open the notification and read the contents. The material stated in the notification is time-sensitive and requires immediate action. Upon receipt of the enforcement action, the owner and/or operator must acknowledge receipt of the action, determine what type of action has been issued, and assess its requirements. A representative of the company must respond (by the method specified) within the required timeframe. In some cases, the enforcement action may require the owner/operator to submit documentation of compliance to fulfill the requirements of the action. Failure to submit a timely response and compliance documentation may result in additional penalties ordered by the governing agency, such as the issuance of a default order.

Acknowledging the enforcement action agreement can be beneficial for the facility. For each day after the required timeframe that the agreement is not acknowledged, a per-day, per-event penalty calculation may be assessed. When a facility chooses not to respond to the enforcement action, a civil enforcement action is filed in a court of law.

There are three types of enforcement actions that the EPA can pursue civil administrative actions, civil judicial actions, or criminal actions. A civil administrative action is an action that does not involve the court system. The action may come in the form of a notice of violation (NOV) or a Superfund letter, or possibly an order detailing what steps the individual, business, or other entity is to take action to come into compliance. When the individual, business or other entity agrees to the terms, conditions and the associated penalty of the action, an administrative order is issued. In the event the individual, business or other entity does not respond to the action, a default order is issued. A civil judicial action is an action filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA. It is filed as a formal lawsuit against persons or entities that have failed to comply with statutory or regulatory requirements, an administrative order, pay the costs for cleaning up a Superfund site, and/or commit to doing the cleanup work. A criminal action is reserved for the most severe violations resulting from criminal actions that are knowingly and willfully committed.

The best way to deal with enforcement actions is to avoid them all together. It’s important to perform the necessary tasks to ensure compliance with the issued permit and the permit conditions. Acquiring a reliable and knowledgeable company to assist in maintaining permit compliance will save time and money.

About the Author – Shonta’ N. Moore, MS is an Environmental Specialist with C. H. Fenstermaker & Associates, L.L.C., specializing in air permitting for oil and gas facilities. Ms. Moore possesses a Master’s Degree in Environmental Toxicology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Texas Southern University in Houston, TX. To contact Shontà, call 713.840.9995 or email to shonta(at)fenstermaker.com.

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