Why does IDEM take enforcement actions?
Making Indiana a cleaner, healthier State is the goal of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. An important step toward achieving that goal is to ensure Indiana businesses, individuals, and governmental entities are complying with environmental laws. IDEM uses the tool of enforcement to bring facilities with serious environmental problems into compliance with the law. The IDEM Office of Enforcement's mission is to respond to violations with timely, quality enforcement actions that accomplish three major goals:
- achieve compliance,
- deter future violations, and
- (3) result in an improved environment.
Once violations are noted by personnel in the Offices of Air Quality, Water Quality and Land Quality, the nature of the violation is evaluated. If the violation is serious, it is immediately referred to the Office of Enforcement. If the violation is not serious in nature, the individual programs will typically work with the violator to correct the problem. Only in cases where the violation remains uncorrected, a referral is made to the Office of Enforcement.
Understanding the Enforcement Process
Enforcement Actions taken by the agency utilize the tools listed below:
- Notice of Violation: A Notice of Violation (NOV) informs the Respondent that IDEM believes violations of environmental laws or regulations have occurred. The Respondent (violator) is invited to attend a conference to discuss violations or solutions.
- Agreed Order: By statute, the Respondent has a 60-day settlement period after receiving a Notice of Violation in which to enter into an Agreed Order with IDEM. Agreed Orders contain steps the Respondent must take to comply with the law. In most cases, Agreed Orders include a fine for past violations and stipulated penalties for failure to complete future compliance steps. Agreed Orders will not necessarily require a Respondent to admit that a violation of law occurred. Fines may be lessened if the Respondent can demonstrate that mitigating circumstances existed.
- Commissioner's Order: This is a unilateral order requiring specific action to correct a violation and/or pay a fine. Commissioner's Orders are issued when a Notice of Violation is not settled by Agreed Order.
- Emergency Order: An Emergency Order is a formal enforcement action that may be issued by IDEM (or other state agency) if an emergency exists; or a statute authorizes the agency to issue a temporary order to take immediate action to cease activities causing violations where human and/or environmental health is threatened. Emergency Order's expire after 90 days. A party affected by the Emergency Order may request a hearing under IC 4-21.5-4-4 by submitting a written request to the Office of Environmental Adjudication.
- Judicial Order: Any Order issued by a court of record, such as a Superior Court or Circuit Court. This would not include an order issued by an administrative court such as the Office of Environmental Adjudication.
- Fines: Although state law authorizes fines up to $25,000 per day per violation, most are much less. The amount of the fine depends on the magnitude of the violation, the potential harm to human health and the environment, the economic benefit gained by the violator by not complying, and the violator's efforts to achieve compliance (See Civil Penalty Policy). Many fines today are partially offset through the use of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP's). These projects allow violators to offset a portion of their penalty by performing projects which remediate adverse health and environmental consequences of pollution. SEP's provide opportunities to improve the environment beyond the requirements specified by law.
- If You Receive a Notice of Violation: The first step in ensuring a smooth settlement of your case is to contact the case manager at the IDEM Office of Enforcement who is assigned to your case. He or she is familiar with the circumstances of the alleged violation(s), and is eager to work with you. Before you do so, please review the contents of the proposed Agreed Order, if one has been included. If an Agreed Order is not included, the case manager will discuss the specifics of your case in a conference.
What Comes Next?
- It is time to schedule a settlement conference with your case manager at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
- Check your Notice of Violation to see if your case manager has prearranged the date, time, and location of your conference.
- In many instances the case manager will contact you. However, it is your responsibility to contact him or her and schedule a conference within 15 days of receiving this Notice of Violation.
- Remember to ask your case manager:
- What is the date, time, and location of the settlement conference?
- What documents should be brought to the settlement conference?
- What will be discussed?
- Would it be beneficial to bring others from your company (i.e., managers, scientists, attorneys)?
It is always in a facility's best interest to comply with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's settlement procedures. If you feel that your case manager has wrongly assessed your situation, and that you may not have violated the regulations in question, please do not simply refuse to cooperate with your IDEM case manager. He or she is willing to review additional information and listen to the facility's concerns about the circumstances surrounding violations. The Office of Enforcement strives to ensure that actions taken are both consistent and equitable.
For More Information
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Office of Enforcement
100 N. Senate Ave
Phone: (317) 233-5529
Toll Free: (800) 451-6027 (within Indiana)
Fax: (317) 233-5968