DEP Enforcement Bill Needs Tightening

05.01.2009
Issues & Policies

When a proposal from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to increase enforcement penalties first came before the Environment Committee in February, CBIA and others understood that the bill (SB-871) was designed to punish intentional criminal behavior.

Said DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy in her testimony, “it is important to ensure there is a strong deterrent to making false statements and false reporting and the alteration and concealment of records.”

A representative from the Connecticut Fund for the Environment agreed, saying the DEP should “have [the] authority to seek penalties against those that knowingly falsify documents to the agency.”

SB-871, however, proposes substantial monetary penalties and jail time for “knowing” violations that can involve conduct that does not include conscious or intentional violation of environmental laws.

According to most federal courts, a “knowing” violation could pertain to someone who understands that he or she is conducting a certain action but does not know that it violates the law.

For example, a person washing a car with detergent that flows onto the ground is technically violating Connecticut’s water discharge permit laws, and the state could prosecute the person for a “knowing” violation simply because the person knew that he or she was washing the car.

It wouldn’t matter if the car-washer didn’t know the detergent run-off was violating the law—they could face a fine of not more than $50,000 per day or be imprisoned for not more than three years, or both.

CBIA supports the DEP’s desire to prosecute those who intentionally violate environmental laws, but the current language of SB-871 unfairly and significantly overshoots that goal.

The association is working with legislators to modify SB-871 to make sure that Connecticut’s substantial criminal penalties are appropriately applied to intentional and willful violators of environmental laws.

For more information, contact Eric Brown at 860-244-1926 or at eric.brown@cbia.com.
 

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