The first step in the enforcement actions process is DEQ being notified of a violation. The agency learns of violations through
- Self-reporting by current permit holders
- Complaints from the public and other government agencies
- When a violation has been confirmed DEQ takes one or more of the enforcement actions described below.
The majority of violations DEQ addresses fall under Warning Letters or Pre-Enforcement Notices. If a monetary penalty is assessed for repeated or more serious violations, in most cases the fees collected go to the Oregon State General Fund, not directly to DEQ.
Types of DEQ Enforcement Actions
DEQ issues a Warning Letter when it documents a violation. Warning Letters are issued:
- When no further enforcement is contemplated
- To inform the recipient that a violation has been documented
- Requesting steps be taken to either correct the violation or prevent another violation from occurring
A Pre-Enforcement Notice is similar to a Warning Letter. It informs the recipient that the violation is being referred for further enforcement action.
DEQ assesses monetary civil penalties for repeated and/or more serious violations. Oregon law authorizes the agency to assess penalties of up to $25,000 for each day the violation exists.
DEQ calculates the amount of penalties using criteria set forth in Oregon Administrative Rules Chapter 340, Division 12
. These rules are established by the Environmental Quality Commission. There is an appeals process for monetary civil penalties. An appeal may be resolved through discussion, negotiation or an evidentiary hearing. You can find out more about this process on our “Questions and Answers” page
This order directs the recipient to take specific actions to correct an ongoing violation. It’s used to ensure any harm caused by the violation is remedied and to prevent future occurrences.
Expedited Enforcement Orders
An Expedited Enforcement Order is an alternative to DEQ’s traditional enforcement process. This order allows DEQ to resolve less serious environmental law violations more quickly and with fewer resources. DEQ may offer to settle a violation with an expedited enforcement offer. Once this offer is received you have 30 days to accept it by signing the offer and paying the reduced penalty.
Accepting this offer means waiving the right to appeal DEQ’s action. However, it offers the benefit of a reduced penalty and expedited process. If an expedited offer is not accepted then it is referred for formal enforcement action.
Environmental violations committed with criminal intent are subject to criminal prosecution. DEQ works with law enforcement agencies, including the Oregon State Police and the US EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, in identifying potential environmental crimes. We assist as needed in these investigations.