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Environmental Justice And Projects Increase Environmental Fines

Concerning additional public health protections regarding alleged environmental violations, and, in connection therewith, raising the maximum fines for air quality and water quality violations.
2020 Regular Session
Natural Resources & Environment
Bill Summary

Current state law sets the maximum civil fine for most air quality violations at $15,000 per day and most water quality violations at $10,000 per day, but federal law allows the federal environmental protection agency to assess a higher maximum daily fine fines per violation. of $47,357 for these violations. Sections 1 and 2 and 4 of the bill raise the maximum fine to $47,357 per day for air quality violations and $54,833 per day for water quality violations and direct the air quality control commission and the water quality control commission in the department of public health and environment (department) to annually adjust the maximum fine based on changes in the consumer price index.

Current law allocates all water quality fines to the water quality improvement fund; section 4 authorizes the use of money in that fund to pay for projects addressing impacts to environmental justice communities. Section 4 2 also extends the repeal date for the water quality improvement fund to September 1, 2025.

Current law allocates all air quality fines to the general fund; section 3 allocates them to the newly created community impact cash fund. Section 3 also:

  • Specifies that the department is to use money in the community impact cash fund for environmental mitigation projects (EMPs);
  • Defines an EMP as a project that avoids, minimizes, or mitigates the adverse effects of a violation or alleged violation of the air quality or water quality laws;
  • Creates the environmental justice advisory board to recommend EMPs in response to violations or alleged violations that affect environmental justice communities; and
  • Creates an environmental justice ombudsperson position within the department, who serves as chief staff to the advisory board and advocates for environmental justice communities.

Section 3 also requires the department to post proposed EMPs on the department's website in a format that allows the public to submit comments on the proposed EMP, not approve an EMP until at least 45 days after the EMP has been posted on its website, and include a description of all approved EMPs in its departmental SMART Act presentations.

Section 1 sunsets the advisory board on September 1, 2025.

Current law specifies that a person who commits criminal pollution of state waters that is committed:

  • With criminal negligence or recklessly is subject to a maximum daily fine of $12,500; and
  • Knowingly or intentionally is subject to a maximum daily fine of $25,000.

Section 3 makes a:

  • Criminally negligent or reckless violation a misdemeanor and increases the penalty to $25,000, imprisonment of up to 364 days, or both; and
  • Knowing or intentional violation a class 5 felony and increases the penalty to $50,000, imprisonment of up to 3 years, or both.

Current law specifies that a person who knowingly makes any false representation in a required record or who knowingly renders inaccurate any required water quality monitoring device or method is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine of not more than $10,000, imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months, or both. Section 4 makes these violations a class 5 felony and specifies that if 2 separate offenses occur in 2 separate occurrences during a period of 2 years, the maximum fine and imprisonment for the second offense are double the default amounts.

(Note: Italicized words indicate new material added to the original summary; dashes through words indicate deletions from the original summary.)

(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)


Became Law


Bill Text