Permit and license Holders; the MPCA regulated community:
• There are tens of thousands of people, facilities and projects at any given time that affect Minnesota’s environment.
• They are people conducting businesses and activities which vary in size and type: manufacturing, mines, farms, airports, local government, and land development; any public or private entity that affects our air, water or land.
• These entities are regulated through a variety of laws and permits that set limits on what pollutants they may emit to the air, the quality of water they can release, and how they must protect the land they occupy.
•It is the goal of the MPCA to monitor and assist all these permit holders to comply with State and Federal regulations.
• MPCA enforcement inspectors periodically visit facilities and projects and review reports and tests, to make sure environmentally-protective rules and standards are being met.
• MPCA enforcement and emergency response staff respond to tip calls and investigate, and oversee cleanup of environmental spills and releases
• The #1 goal is compliance.
Compliance and enforcement tools:
MPCA enforcement staff use a variety of tools to respond to instances of noncompliance; ranging from a phone call, to a letter, to an enforcement action assessing a financial penalty. Below are two common tools for serious or repeat violations.
• Administrative Penalty Orders require the violation to be corrected within 30 days, and also contain a penalty up to $20,000. In some instances, the penalty may be completely or partially forgiven.
• Stipulation Agreements are used for more significant environmental violations. This agreement is a negotiated settlement between the MPCA and the legally-responsible party. The penalty normally exceeds $20,000 and/or a longer period of time is needed to correct the violation. It may also contain additional set penalties which are triggered if the requirements of the agreement are not met. Agreements may contain a Supplemental Environmental Project, which is an environmentally beneficial project which a party undertakes to offset a portion of the penalty.
How are penalties set?
• Agency staff meet in a forum setting to discuss factors related to a given enforcement case. This forum process helps make the outcome more fair and eliminates the possibility of any one person determining the outcome.
• Penalties are based on the potential and/or actual impacts to human health and the environment, as well as how far out of compliance the party was.
• Penalties are set to recover any economic benefit or excess profits resulting from noncompliance.
• Penalties may be increased if there is previous enforcement history with the party.
• Penalties may be increased if the party acts willfully or with recklessness or responds dishonestly to an investigation.
• Penalties should be consistent with previous, similar cases.
• Penalties should be large enough to deter noncompliance by others.
• Penalties may be paid in installments over a period of time, or reduced, if the party’s financial records prove an inability to pay.
The MPCA sends out news releases about environmental enforcement cases to inform the public and provide a deterrent factor to other permitted parties.
• Individual news releases are sent out for stipulation agreements of $20,000 or more.
• News releases summarizing large and smaller penalties are also sent out quarterly.
Quarterly summary of enforcement actions:
Each quarter of a given calendar year, a summary of all completed administrative penalty orders, and stipulation agreements is published on the MPCA web site. The summary offers more detail on the nature of violations and MPCA staff contacts for further information on specific cases. Like individual news releases, the summary also provides information to the public and serves as a deterrent factor to other permitted parties.
The mission of the MPCA is to protect and improve the environment and enhance human health.