Each year, the EPA publishes annual inflationary increases to the fine amounts for civil penalties assessed under its authority.
“Since 1996, Federal agencies have been required to issue regulations adjusting for inflation the statutory civil monetary penalties that can be imposed under the laws administered by that agency,” according to the final rule published by the EPA in the Federal Register.
Adjustments to the penalty amounts are regulated by The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. This year, the cost-of-living inflationary adjustment is a 1.18 percent increase of the current maximum penalty amount. The new adjusted raw penalty value is then rounded to the nearest multiple of $1 to determine the final maximum penalty value for the year.
The adjusted penalty rates became effective on December 23, 2020. Examples of maximum penalty increases include:
- Clean Air Act (CAA) violations under 42 USC 7412(b): from $101,439 to $102,638 per day per violation;
- Clean Water Act (CWA) violations under 33 USC 1319(d): from $55,800 to $56,460 per day per violation;
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) violations under 42 USC 6928(g): from $75,867 to $76,764 per day per violation;
- Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) violations under 42 USC 300g-3(b): from $58,328 to $59,017 per day per violation;
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) violations under 15 USC 2615(a)(1): from $40,576 to $41,056 per day per violation;
- Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) violations under 42 USC 11045(a): from $58,328 to $59,017 per day per violation; and
- Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) violations under 7 USC 136: from $20,288 to $20,528 per day per violation.
While the increased maximum penalties may not impact the actual penalties the EPA seeks when dealing with a specific environmental violation, the Agency believes it is important that the maximum penalties reflect inflation in order to maintain the intended deterrent effect and promote compliance.