Civil penalties are fines assessed against a responsible party for violation(s) of environmental regulations. The assessment of a penalty is based on the specifics of each civil penalty case. The law requires consideration of specific assessment factors by the assessor for each case.
What are the options when assessed a Civil Penalty?
Once a civil penalty has been assessed, the responsible party has three options. These options are explained in detail in an assessment letter received by the responsible party. One of the three must be selected within thirty (30) days of receipt of the assessment letter. The options are discussed below:
Option #1: payment of the penalty. The selection of this option simply entails the submittal of a check or money order made out to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Option #2: request for remission of the penalty. A request for remission is an opportunity for the responsible party to submit information explaining mitigating circumstances for review. Once the request is received, Division personnel reconsider the amount based upon remission factors. A request for remission is limited to the review of the penalty amount and is not the proper procedure for contesting the accuracy of statements contained in the assessment letter. Because a remission request forecloses the option of an administrative hearing, the request must be accompanied by a waiver of right to an administrative hearing and stipulation that there are no factual or legal issues in dispute. The waiver/stipulation form is enclosed with the assessment letter. A Justification for Remission Request Form is also included with the assessment letter and should be completed and included with the remission request as well.
To receive a favorable remission decision, the assessed party must show their request satisfies one or more of the criteria for remission spelled out in G.S 143-215.6A and G.S. 143B-282.1(c) and (d):
- Whether one or more of the civil penalty assessment factors in G.S. 143B-282.1 were wrongfully applied to the detriment of the petitioner;
- Whether the violator promptly abated continuing environmental damage resulting from the violation;
- Whether the violation was inadvertent or a result of an accident;
- Whether the violator had been assessed civil penalties for any previous violations;
- Whether payment of the civil penalty will prevent payment for the remaining necessary remedial actions.
Assessed parties are notified of the Director's remission decision and have the option of paying the (perhaps modified) penalty or continueing their appeal to the Environmental Management Commission.
Option #3: petition for an administrative hearing. This choice results in the opportunity for the responsible party to contest any statement(s) in the assessment letter. The contested case is heard by an impartial third party (hearing officer). This request must be in the form of a written petition and filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings.