Drainage pipeThe first step in the enforcement actions process is DEQ being notified of a violation. The agency learns of violations through:
  • Inspections
  • 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

Warning Letters

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 

Pre-Enforcement Notices

A Pre-Enforcement Notice is similar to a Warning Letter. It informs the recipient that the violation is being referred for further enforcement action. 

Civil Penalties

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. 

Compliance Orders

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.

Hazardous Waste Expedited Enforcement Offers

How it works

An EEO lists qualifying violations and requires correction. It identifies violations DEQ determines from an inspection or report review. An entity receiving the EEO has 30 days to accept or reject the offer. Acceptance of the offer includes penalty payment and agreement to correct all alleged violations within a specified timeframe determined by DEQ.

Once a company signs the EEO, the offer becomes a department order. It includes required corrective actions and a compliance schedule listing the timeline a company has to return to compliance with hazardous waste and used oil requirements.

If a company declines an EEO, DEQ will enforce through traditional means by issuing a formal enforcement action with a higher civil penalty and allowing the party the right to appeal. If a company accepts an EEO but then does not correct identified violations, the company will then be in violation of a department order and face additional penalties.

More information

For more details on hazardous waste expedited enforcement officers, contact DEQ’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Portland at 503-229-6927 or call toll-free in Oregon at 800-452-4011, ext. 6927.

Criminal Enforcement

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.