Defense of Enforcement Actions
Although most environmental statutes contain criminal penalties for willful violation of those laws, most environmental enforcement actions are done administratively. This means that instead of a criminal case being filed in court, an agency employee sends out a notice of violation to the person suspected of violating the law. The notice usually asks that the violation be stopped or corrected, and seeks a civil penalty (a fine).
Because a notice of violation usually comes in the mail, and no court appearance is necessary, recipients of these notices often do not take them seriously, or do not reply promptly. This is a grave mistake. Although these notices of violation appear informal, failing to respond properly, and in a timely fashion, can result in the loss of many rights, and the imposition of large penalties. Engaging a lawyer as soon as a notice of violation is received is critical to protecting your rights in these matters.
Peter Niemiec spent six years in government bringing administrative enforcement actions and setting enforcement policy. Since leaving government, he has represented clients who were the subject of investigations or administrative enforcement actions over a wide variety of issues, such as:
- An investigation into the handling of materials associated with pipeline operations.
- A civil enforcement action alleging widespread violations of cleanup requirements for underground tanks.
- An administrative complaint alleging reporting violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to Know Act (EPCRA).
- A misdemeanor action against a gasoline retailer for alleged violations of orders to investigate a gasoline spill.
- An investigation into alleged violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
- Notices of Violation issued by local air quality districts.