The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to update its enforcement guidance for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) following a report [PDF] from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released on September 27, 2013. The report contained findings and recommendations related to FIFRA and TSCA good faith reductions and “ability to pay” penalties, based on the OIG’s review of 23 FIFRA cases and 20 TSCA cases (13 lead disclosure and 7 PCB cases).
The OIG found that EPA regions differed in how they assessed FIFRA and TSCA enforcement penalty reductions; some appeared to justify reductions automatically, without considering the good faith compliance efforts of the violators. Because of the lack of adequate guidance and supporting documentation for determining and justifying good faith penalty reductions, there is a risk that EPA might treat violators inequitably and might be losing opportunities to fully collect all penalties due. Based on the OIG’s findings and recommendations, EPA has agreed to reissue the enforcement policy document GM-88, “Documenting Penalty Calculations and Justifications in EPA Enforcement Actions.”
The OIG also found that EPA’s enforcement response and penalty policy for lead-based paint disclosure rule to address violators who are unable to pay penalties is inadequate. Specifically, no guidance exists for applying non-monetary penalty alternatives (such as public service or delayed payment plans) when violators do not have the cash to pay the penalty. EPA has agreed to evaluate whether additional guidance is needed to clarify whether non-monetary alternatives must meet the agency’s existing Supplemental Environmental Projects policy.
In addition, the OIG report found that EPA’s “INDIPAY” economic model may be limited in its ability to help teams evaluate individuals’ claims of inability to afford penalties or clean-up costs. According to the OIG, the INDIPAY model does not assess an individual’s assets and should be updated to improve its accuracy. Furthermore, the report found that EPA does not provide adequate guidance or case development training to help regional teams evaluate ability to pay cases. In order to improve the agency’s consistency in handling the growing number of ability to pay cases, EPA has agreed to provide regional staff with updated training for case development of ability to pay claims. EPA also agreed to update its 1986 document “Guidance on Determining a Violator’s Ability to Pay a Civil Penalty” [PDF] to further improve guidance on evaluating ability to pay cases and address the inadequacies of the INDIPAY model.