EPA Increases Civil Penalties for 2021

Posted on 12/28/2020 by Roger Marks

US EPA increased its maximum monetary civil penalties for violations of air, water, chemical, and hazardous waste programs on December 23, 2020. The Final Rule increases maximum penalty amounts to keep pace with inflation.

The increased penalty amounts shown below will apply to environmental violations that occurred after November 2, 2015 and for which penalties are assessed on or after December 23, 2020. 

When civil penalties rise, so does the value of environmental compliance. While typical environmental violations don't result in maximum penalties, these figures will guide EPA's enforcement decisions in the new year.

Updated EPA Civil Penalties

Civil penalty figures are current as of December 23, 2020. EPA assesses civil penalties on a per day, per violation basis.
EPA Program Before 12/23/20      After 12/23/20
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)   $75,867   $76,764  
Clean Air Act (CAA) $101,439 $102,638
Clean Water Act (CWA) $55,800 $56,460
Emergency Planning/ Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) $58,328 $59,017
Comp. Environmental Response... Act (CERCLA) $58,328 $59,017
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA $58,328 $59,017
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA $40,576 $41,056
Fed Insecticide, Fungicide/Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) $20,288 $20,528

To see penalty increases for other EPA programs like CASCO, MPRSA, and the Battery Act, view the Final Rule in the December 23 Federal Register.

The updated penalty amounts are in effect as of December 23, 2020. 


Mitigating Factors for EPA Penalty Assessment

EPA considers a range of factors before assessing a civil penalty. These include: 
  • Severity of the violation 
  • the facility's good faith efforts to ensure compliance
  • economic benefit gained from noncompliance; and 
  • ability to pay
To avoid civil penalties for environmental noncompliance, you must know which regulations apply to your organization and how those regulations impact your activities. 

EPA maintains a self-audit policy that enables facilities to reduce the civil penalty assessment for violations of environmental mandates.

In 2015, EPA launched an eDisclosure portal to help regulated entities self-report violations of EPCRA requirements and other environmental mistakes. 

Why Environmental Penalties Increase Every Year

Federal agencies like US EPA and US DOT increase their maximum civil penalties annually. This began with the passage of the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act.

​Before that law, agencies were required to raise penalties every four years. 

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Join a Lion instructor for live Complete Environmental Regulations training to identify the EPA rules that impact you. This unique two-day webinar is updated for 2021 to cover new and changing environmental regulations you should know about, including: 
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  • CSB's new chemical release reporting rule 
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Tags: environmental compliance, fines and penalties, hazardous waste management, RCRA

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