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Frequently Asked Compliance Questions

A Supplemental Environmental Project is an environmental enhancement project which, upon agreement with DEQ, you could perform as part of a Mutual Agreement and Final Order. Generally, you may pay up to 80 percent of the final civil penalty towards a Supplemental Environmental Project. However, these projects are considered only for penalties amounting to over $2,000. The projects cannot be something you are already required to do by law or something that is financially self-serving. Projects that result in pollution prevention are especially favored.  

If you properly appealed the order and reject DEQ’s settlement offer, you are entitled to a contested case hearing. The hearing will be conducted by an Administrative Law Judge available through the Oregon Office of Administrative Hearings. Judges are not employees of DEQ and are instructed to render neutral and objective findings of fact. At the hearing, DEQ must prove that, more likely than not, the allegations on which DEQ based its case are true and the assessed penalty is supported by law. The hearing is a semi-formal proceeding and violators are given an opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Violators may be represented at the hearing by an attorney if they wish.

DEQ determines the amount of the fine, officially called a civil penalty, by applying the assessment factors set forth in Oregon's Administrative Rules (OARs) Chapter 340, Division 012. The amount of the fine reflects the type of alleged violator; the violator's history of noncompliance; the violator's knowledge about the requirements; and the severity, frequency and duration of the alleged violation(s). DEQ may also considered the economic benefit that the violator gained through noncompliance. DEQ's fine assessment is attached as an exhibit to the order.

Fines are deposited in Oregon's General Fund or otherwise dispersed according to state law. As provided by state statute, only DEQ's underground storage tank and spill programs receive any portion of the fines collected in those programs.

A Mutual Agreement and Final Order (MAO) is a legally binding enforceable document that sets out settlement terms on which you and DEQ agree. The MAO may include the following:
  • Final decisions to reduce, maintain, or increase the fine to reflect new information.
  • A payment plan schedule.
  • A change in the timing or substance of the required corrective actions.
In signing a MAO, the violator waives their right to a contested case hearing, but obtains the benefit of avoiding additional time and costs associated with the appeal processes. Once the violator and DEQ sign the MAO, the order and the fine become final.

​DEQ assesses fines to deter continued or repeated noncompliance and to create a regulatory environment that is fair to those who reach compliance on their own initiative. To maintain a consistent enforcement program, DEQ rarely withdraws an order where it has determined that formal enforcement was needed. Continued noncompliance may lead to additional penalties.

Also, if you demonstrate good faith efforts to promptly correct the alleged violation, DEQ will favorably consider these actions when calculating any fine reduction. Other mitigating factors that may reduce the amount include measures taken to prevent recurrence, exceptional pollution prevention, and, in penalties over $2,000, a Supplemental Environmental Project.

The Notice of Civil Penalty Assessment and Order, or penalty, initiates a formal administrative enforcement process. It outlines DEQ's finding of facts, identifies the laws or regulations DEQ alleges were violated, invites the violator to request an informal discussion, and gives the violator information about how to appeal. If the violator accepts DEQ's findings, the case will be closed once the violator performs the actions required by the order, if any, and pays the fine. If the violator intends to appeal the order, it is important that DEQ receives a request for a hearing within 20 days from the date the violator received it.

If you have questions about a Notice of Civil Penalty Assessment and Order that you received, please call the environmental law specialist assigned to your case. The last paragraph of the cover letter to the order gives you the name and a phone number for the appropriate environmental law specialist. This person will answer other questions about the enforcement process and will represent DEQ at throughout the enforcement process, including at the informal meeting and contested case hearing.

The informal discussion is a voluntary meeting violators may request with DEQ. The order violators received contains all of the known issues of regulatory concern and provides the basis for discussion. It is important that violators are fully prepared to present any information that contradicts the alleged facts or that will help DEQ make fair and sound decisions about whether a settlement recommendation is possible. Violators should also be prepared to report any actions they are taking or planning to take to correct the situation.

You can expect a fair and objective evaluation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations. DEQ may ask questions during the informal meeting and you will be encouraged to present whatever new or mitigating information you have on the issues.

After the informal discussion, DEQ will consider whether to make a settlement offer. The settlement offer may include a reduction of the fine. If you accept DEQ's settlement offer, DEQ will provide you with a Mutual Agreement and Final Order, which is a document that will finalize the settlement. If you reject DEQ's settlement offer, DEQ will refer the matter to the Office of Administrative Hearings and ask that the matter be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge.


Kieran O’Donnell
Office of Compliance and Enforcement