The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal agency tasked with using various rules and regulations to help protect people and the environment from significant health risks. It has the authority to move forward with both civil and criminal actions against those who violate these regulations and will do so against big and small actors alike.
How does the EPA enforce these regulations?
In a recent example of civil enforcement, the EPA went after a local renovation company for lead-based paint violations. The agency claimed the company failed to follow the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA states the company exposed clients and workers to residue that could contain particles of lead-based paint. The agency states the company should have kept paperwork about the project and assigned a certified renovator to deal with this material as well as notified property owners of the renovation requirements. As a result of these violations, the EPA fined the company almost $10,000.
What is the difference between civil and criminal enforcement efforts?
The EPA generally uses civil enforcement for an accidental violation, while criminal liability can apply for those who willfully violate the law. A knowing violation can result in a monetary fine, required restitution payments, and potential imprisonment. Civil enforcement, as demonstrated in the example above, generally results in a monetary penalty.
The agency may also require additional injunctive relief or education requirements.
What should my company know before moving forward with a project?
Navigating these regulations is important to any project, whether renovation or new build. In addition to dealing with federal regulations and the EPA, developers, renovation companies, and other project managers also need to make sure the project complies with local and state laws. This can mean dealing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or Texas Water Development Board depending on the issue.