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Section: Findings, declarations relative to enforcement of environmental laws

Statute: 13:1D-125

1. The Legislature finds and declares that: The Department of Environmental Protection has historically measured the success of its enforcement programs based upon the magnitude of penalties imposed, correlating higher penalties with greater success, and that this paradigm is predicated upon the belief that the threat or imposition of monetary sanctions is the sole economic incentive inducing compliance and the dominant force driving corporate compliance decisions and investments. The economic dynamics of pollution control and waste management have substantially changed since the inception of environmental regulatory and enforcement programs; that considerable market forces now exist which substantially influence the economics of compliance; that the threat or imposition of monetary sanctions is no longer the dominant force driving corporate compliance decisions and investments; and that the enforcement programs administered by the Department of Environmental Protection should recognize these changes in the factors which influence compliance. There are equally effective alternative methods to promote compliance with environmental laws, such as establishing grace (compliance) periods, which are especially well-suited for minor violations that have minimal, if any, effect upon public health, safety or natural resources, and that the Department of Environmental Protection affords grace (compliance) periods in certain regulatory programs for minor violations of environmental laws, but this policy is not consistently applied throughout all regulatory programs. Expanding the use of grace (compliance) periods will promote compliance by allowing those members of the regulated community who are committed to working diligently and cooperatively toward compliance, to invest private capital in pollution control equipment and other measures which will yield long-term environmental benefits, instead of in costly litigation and the payment of punitive monetary sanctions. Establishing a policy for the consistent application of grace (compliance) periods for minor violations is a proper exercise of the Department of Environmental Protection's enforcement discretion and will enable the Department of Environmental Protection to more sharply focus limited public resources on serious violations of environmental law. Establishing and employing grace (compliance) periods for minor violations will ensure the administration of an effective, consistent, sensible and fair enforcement program by the Department of Environmental Protection, and promote the health and safety of the public and the protection of natural resources. Persons responsible for minor violations of environmental laws should be afforded a grace (compliance) period, and if the person responsible for the violation achieves compliance within the grace period, the Department of Environmental Protection should refrain from imposing penalties. The economic dynamics of compliance, in combination with an evolving environmentally-sensitive corporate ethic, have resulted in the initiation of environmental audits by regulated entities and the consequent discovery of violations of environmental laws. Environmental enforcement policies should promote and encourage the initiation of environmental audits, the diligent remediation of violations so discovered and the immediate and voluntary disclosure of such violations to the Department of Environmental Protection. The Department of Environmental Protection should refrain from imposing monetary sanctions for violations immediately and voluntarily disclosed, provided certain conditions are met. L.1995,c.296,s.1.

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