Seyfarth Synopsis: EPA has promulgated its new per violation penalty rules for 2018.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has again issued final regulations adjusting the maximum civil penalty dollar amounts for violations of various environmental regulations. 83 Fed. Reg. 1190 (January 10, 2018).

The action is mandated by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (2015 Act), which not only required an adjustment from 2015 penalty maximum levels to account for inflation, but also included a catch-up provision for inflation. The provision required each agency to evaluate and provide for an inflation adjustment dating back to the enactment of the relevant statute’s effective date. Section 5(b)(2)(C) of the 2015 Act provided that the maximum amount of any initial catch-up increase shall not exceed 150 percent of the level that was in effect on November 2, 2015. See related Implementation of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, OMB Memorandum M-16-06 (February 24, 2016).

The 2015 Act required that, in addition to the initial catch-up, beginning January 15, 2017, each agency was required to make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation. The 2018 penalty adjustments will be effective January 15, 2018 for all violations which occur or occurred after November 2, 2015 and are assessed after January 15, 2018.

The 2018 rulemaking sets the maximum penalty by statute. For example, the $25,000 per-violation maximum penalty under the Clean Air Act will now be inflation-adjusted to $46,192; under the Clean Water Act will now be $46,192; under RCRA will now be in a range of $58,562 to $72,718, and under CERCLA (including most EPCRA violations) will now be $55,907. Other maximum penalties are also adjusted.