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Enforcement

Superfund Compliance and Penalties

Complying with Superfund Cleanup Agreements and Orders

Generally, EPA only enters into agreements with potentially responsible parties (PRPs) that it believes will fulfill the terms of the agreement. EPA oversees the settlement agreements and orders issued under its various Superfund enforcement authorities to ensure that PRPs are complying with the terms of the agreements or orders.

More information on complying with Superfund settlements, agreements, and orders and other compliance issues is available on the Agency’s Superfund compliance monitoring Web page.

Policy and guidance documents are available from the Compliance with Superfund Obligations category in the Superfund cleanup policy and guidance database.

Penalties

Superfund penalties include:

Statutory Penalties There are a variety of Superfund statutory penalty provisions that may apply if a PRP does not meet the requirements of a settlement agreement or an order. The penalties depend upon the type of settlement or order and on the nature, severity, and duration of the non-compliance.   EPA increases the maximum amount of such penalties annually to keep pace with inflation.  For further information on such increases, see, e.g., "Guidance: Penalty Matrix for CERCLA Section 106(b)(1) Civil Penalty Policy."
Stipulated Penalties Agreements may include stipulated penalties, where the parties agree within the settlement agreement what the penalty will be for a certain type of non-compliance in the future. The primary goal of these provisions is to provide an incentive for the party to comply with the agreement. EPA's Guidance on the Use of Stipulated Penalties in EPA Settlement Agreements (9/21/87) provides further guidance.
Treble Damages EPA can recover up to three times its costs from potentially responsible parties who did not comply with a unilateral administrative order.

Agency case teams consider the following criteria in determining an appropriate penalty amount:

  • The penalty should be large enough to serve as a deterrent;
  • It should treat the violator fairly and equitably; and
  • It should resolve swiftly the environmental problems posed by noncompliance.

EPA's Interim Policy on Settlement of CERCLA Section 106(b)(1) Penalty Claims and Section 107(c)(3) Punitive Damages Claims for Noncompliance with Administrative Orders (9/30/97), describes the factors that it will consider when deciding how to settle a penalty claim for non-compliance with an order directing work.

EPA's Enforcement Response Policy for Sections 304, 311 and 312 of EPCRA and Section 103 of CERCLA (9/30/99), describes penalty responses for failures to report a release above a specified quantity of hazardous substances.

EPA sometimes uses computer models to help analyze penalty-related issues, including calculations of the economic benefit of non-compliance and calculations of the violator’s ability to pay a penalty. These Enforcement Economic Models are available to local, state, and federal employees for their use in settlement negotiations.

Learn more: Superfund enforcement authority

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