New Increased EPA RCRA Civil Penalty Authority

    [released January 30, 2017]

    (Brookfield, WI - January 30, 2017) PharmEcology Services, WM Sustainability Services.

    In 2015, Congress raised the penalty authority regarding a number of statutes, including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The maximum allowable penalty under RCRA increased from $37,500 per violation per day to a staggering $93,750 per violation per day for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015 and where penalties were assessed by EPA on or after August 1, 2016, which is the date the new penalties became effective. The rationale was that fining authority had not adequately kept up with inflation over the years. EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles provided guidance to the agency allowing for initial maximums under the "gravity" portion of the penalty, which looks at what actual or potential damage was caused by the violation, not to exceed $40,779 per violation per day, a more reasonable increase from the prior $37,500. However, EPA is now authorized to add monetary damages to the penalty based on any "economic benefit" enjoyed by the hazardous waste generator due to the violations up to the $93,750 maximum. The legislation also directs the agency to evaluate an inflation adjustment annually instead of every three years, as had been the case in the past. The purpose for this adjustment, as stated in the Federal Register, July 1, 2016, page 43091, is "to reflect inflation, maintain the deterrent effect of statutory civil penalties, and promote compliance with the law." These increases should encourage all generators of hazardous pharmaceutical waste to either implement or improve their current management practices to avoid these increased monetary damages. For more information, please refer to the July 27, 2016 Guidance Document and an updated EPA memo published January 17, 2017