The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality just announced this week that it has adopted new enforcement guidelines designed to address three issues:

  • Penalty Increases: Violators of environmental laws in Virginia now face expanded and more costly penalties. In calculating penalties for a particular violation, the DEQ will now include additional penalties for any other violations that may have occurred within the prior 36 months. Each past violation will now boost the gravity factor increasing penalties by 5% or $5000 per violation, whichever is less. Prior policy only required increases for past violations of the same type.
  • Ability to Pay: The new policy also requires the agency to evaluate a violator?s ability to pay prior to signing a consent order.
  • Wetland Enforcement: DEQ has made the wetland compliance calculations more robust, giving more weight to environmental harm from wetland impacts.

This new enforcement policy is set out in DEQ's revised enforcement manual chapter entitled "Chapter 4, Civil Charges and Civil Penalties."