What is an environmental enforcement matter?

Enforcing environmental laws is a central part of the EPA or a state environmental agencies (TCEQ or RRC) role to protect human health and the environment.  To ensure compliance, EPA and state agencies will sometimes take civil or criminal enforcement actions against violators of environmental laws. 

A civil non-judicial enforcement action does not involve a judicial court process and may be in the form of:

  • A notice of violation or a Superfund notice letter; or
  • An order (either with or without penalties) directing an individual, a business, or other entity to take action to come into compliance, or to clean up a site. 

The EPA or state agency can also institute a formal judicial action for failing to:

  • Comply with statutory or regulatory requirements;
  • Comply with an administrative order; or
  • Pay EPA the costs for cleaning up a Superfund site or commit to doing the cleanup work. 

Finally, the EPA or a state can enforce against a company or person through a criminal action. Criminal actions are usually reserved for the most serious violations, those that are willful, or knowingly committed. A court conviction can result in fines or imprisonment.

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