Fines for pollution increased by EPA


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made it more expensive for those who violate the Clean Water Act and other federal environmental laws. Each violation now can be as high as $32,500 per day, a 17.23 percent increase.

As required by the 1996 Debt Collection Improvement Act, maximum penalties are to be adjusted for inflation every four years. Bureaucracy delayed the increase in 2002.

Implementation of the latest increase came a few days after the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released its own analysis, concluding that EPA's delay in updating penalties means the agency collected $39 million less than it would have otherwise.

PIRG charged that EPA "compromises its mission of enforcing environmental statutes and deterring illegal pollution by removing the economic incentives for violation."

EPA officials disputed the charge, however, pointing out that civil penalties are just one factor in determining how much money the agency collects from violations.

"The driving factor is the economic benefit calculation in penalties, and EPA automatically updates it every year," an EPA spokesman said.