Why We Collect Penalties
Last updated May 3, 2017
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is authorized by the legislature to pursue penalties under Section 260.425 RSMo, for all violations. However, the department only seeks penalties for those cases where violations are serious in nature or when violations are chronically repeated. The goal of enforcement is to return a company to compliance in a timely fashion and discourage future noncompliance after all other attempts at compliance have failed.
Penalties are not meant to be punitive. They are sought for two primary reasons: to discourage any future noncompliance by the business and to assure that there is an “even playing field” among all regulated businesses. For example, a business that historically illegally burns their hazardous waste has a distinct economic advantage over another business that has consistently paid to dispose of their hazardous waste properly. Penalties are sought for their deterrent value, to assure that one business that violates the laws does not have an advantage over another that complies. Businesses that spend the time, money and resources to remain in compliance expect this of us.
In addition, the department does not financially benefit from civil penalties that are negotiated. The penalties amounts that are collected through the enforcement process are, as required by Article IX, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution, paid directly by the business to the school fund.
In calculating penalties, the Compliance and Enforcement Section tries very hard to assure that the penalties are calculated based on the facts of the case, and that they are fair and consistent with those previously assessed for similar violations. To do this, it is most appropriate to consider the facts behind the violations as they existed on the day of inspection or investigation. The penalties are then calculated based on the potential harm to human health and the environment and to the adverse effect noncompliance may have had on the statutory or regulatory purposes or procedures for implementing the regulations, and also the degree of deviation from the regulatory requirement.
Another reason that penalties are pursued is that we carry out the provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) through the Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Law and regulations. The Hazardous Waste Program (HWP), through authorization approved by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and our legislators, has the authority to enforce the provisions of our law and regulations. However, EPA conducts oversight and audits on enforcement actions taken by the state and expects the state to adhere to their penalty policies as much as possible. If EPA believes that the state has taken insufficient action on a case, they may overfile and seek up to $57,391 per day per violation against the business. The department’s statutory maximum per day penalty per violation is $10,000. Therefore, to assure fair and equitable treatment of Missouri businesses, we prefer to pursue penalties on the state level.
The RCRA Civil Penalty Policy states that “no downward adjustment should be made if the good faith efforts to comply primarily consist of coming into compliance. Moreover, no downward adjustment should be made because respondent lacks knowledge concerning either applicable requirements or violations committed by respondent.” EPA assumes this is appropriate because a respondent is expected to comply after discovery of a violation. Also, if credit was given for not knowing what regulations apply to the business, this would encourage people to avoid learning the requirements. We share copies of the penalty policy with businesses subject to penalties so that they may better understand how penalties were calculated.
For additional information, contact HWP's Compliance and Enforcement Section at 573-751-7560. If you would like information and updates on compliance issues, visit DNR Enforcement and Compliance Assistance Newsletter Generators Subscription to sign up for the hazardous waste generator electronic newsletter.