On January 9, 2018, EPA released the pre-publication copy of its annual civil monetary penalty adjustment. The final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 10, 2018. The adjustments are mandated by 2015 revisions to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, which requires federal agencies to make annual inflation adjustments to federal statutory civil penalty amounts. In the past, EPA only adjusted penalty levels for inflation once every several years. Beginning in 2017, however, EPA and other federal agencies must adjust their penalty amounts every year.

The annual inflation adjustments are based on a cost-of-living multiplier determined by changes to the Consumer Price Index. The changes impact all of the federal environmental statutes and increase the per-day, per-violation maximum civil penalties that may be assessed in federal enforcement actions. For example, civil penalties under the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) increased as follows:

CAA: from $95,284 to $97,229;

CWA: from $52,414 to $53,484; and

RCRA: from $71,264 to $72,718.

The adjusted amounts apply to penalties assessed on or after January 15, 2018 for violations occurring after November 2, 2015, when the penalty adjustment legislation was enacted.