Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 10.1. Conservation
Chapter 11.1. Department of Environmental Quality
1/25/2022

§ 10.1-1197.9. Enforcement; civil penalties; criminal penalties; injunctive relief.

A. Any person violating or failing, neglecting, or refusing to obey any provision of this article, any regulation, case decision, or order, or any certification or permit-by-rule condition may be compelled to comply by injunction, mandamus, or other appropriate remedy.

B. Without limiting the remedies that may be obtained under subsection A, any person violating or failing, neglecting, or refusing to obey any regulation, case decision, or order, any provision of this article, or any certification or permit-by-rule condition shall be subject, in the discretion of the court, to a civil penalty not to exceed $32,500 for each violation. Each day of violation shall constitute a separate offense. Such civil penalties shall be paid into the state treasury and deposited by the State Treasurer into the Virginia Environmental Emergency Response Fund pursuant to Chapter 25 (§ 10.1-2500 et seq.). Such civil penalties may, in the discretion of the court assessing them, be directed to be paid into the treasury of the county, city, or town in which the violation occurred, to be used to abate environmental pollution in such manner as the court may, by order, direct, except that where the person in violation is the county, city, or town itself, or its agent, the court shall direct the penalty to be paid into the state treasury and deposited by the State Treasurer into the Virginia Environmental Emergency Response Fund pursuant to Chapter 25.

C. 1. Nothing in this article shall affect the enforcement authorities in laws administered by the State Air Pollution Control Board, the State Water Control Board, or the Virginia Waste Management Board, nor shall it affect enforcement authorities of the Department as described in § 10.1-1186.

2. The Department is authorized to issue orders to require any person to comply with the provisions of this article, any condition of a permit by rule or certification, or any regulations promulgated by the Department or to comply with any order or case decision, as defined in § 2.2-4001, of the Department. Any such order shall be issued only after a proceeding or hearing in accordance with § 2.2-4019 or 2.2-4020 with reasonable notice to the affected person of the time, place and purpose thereof. The provisions of this section shall not affect the authority of the Department to issue separate orders and regulations to meet any emergency as described in subsection C 5.

3. With the consent of any person who has violated or failed, neglected or refused to obey any regulation or order of the Department, any condition of a permit by rule, certification or any provision of this article, the Department may provide, in an order issued by the Department against such person, for the payment of civil charges for past violations in specific sums, not to exceed the limits specified in this section. Such civil charges shall be levied instead of any appropriate civil penalty, which could be imposed under this section. Such civil charges shall be paid into the state treasury and deposited by the State Treasurer into the Virginia Environmental Emergency Response Fund pursuant to Chapter 25 of this title.

4. In addition to all other available remedies, the Department may issue administrative orders for the violation of (i) any law or regulation administered by the Department; (ii) any condition of a permit by rule or certificate issued pursuant to this article; or (iii) any case decision or order of the Department. Issuance of an administrative order shall be a case decision as defined in § 2.2-4001 and shall be issued only after a hearing before a hearing officer appointed by the Supreme Court in accordance with § 2.2-4020. Orders issued pursuant to this subsection may include civil penalties of up to $32,500 per violation not to exceed $100,000 per order, and may compel the taking of corrective actions or the cessation of any activity upon which the order is based. The Department may assess penalties under this subsection if (a) the person has been issued at least two written notices of alleged violation by the Department for the same or substantially related violations at the same site, (b) such violations have not been resolved by demonstration that there was no violation, by an order issued by the Department or the Director, or by other means, (c) at least 130 days have passed since the issuance of the first notice of alleged violation, and (d) there is a finding that such violations have occurred after a hearing conducted in accordance with this subsection. The actual amount of any penalty assessed shall be based upon the severity of the violations, the extent of any potential or actual environmental harm, the compliance history of the facility or person, any economic benefit realized from the noncompliance, and the ability of the person to pay the penalty. The Department shall provide the person with the calculation for the proposed penalty prior to any hearing conducted for the issuance of an order that assesses penalties pursuant to this subsection. Penalties shall be paid to the state treasury and deposited by the State Treasurer into the Virginia Environmental Emergency Response Fund (§ 10.1-2500 et seq.). The issuance of a notice of alleged violation by the Department shall not be considered a case decision as defined in § 2.2-4001. Any notice of alleged violation shall include a description of each violation, the specific provision of law violated, and information on the process for obtaining a final decision or fact finding from the Department on whether or not a violation has occurred, and nothing in this section shall preclude an owner from seeking such a determination. Orders issued pursuant to this subsection shall become effective five days after having been delivered to the affected persons or mailed by certified mail to the last known address of such persons. The Department shall develop and provide an opportunity for public comment on guidelines and procedures that contain specific criteria for calculating the appropriate penalty for each violation based upon the severity of the violations, the extent of any potential or actual environmental harm, the compliance history of the facility or person, any economic benefit realized from the noncompliance, and the ability of the person to pay the penalty.

5. Should the Department find that any person is grossly affecting the public health, safety or welfare, or the health of animals, fish or aquatic life or the environment, or such effects are imminent, the Department shall issue, without a hearing, an emergency administrative order directing the person to cease the activity immediately and undertake any needed corrective action, and shall within 10 days hold a hearing, after reasonable notice as to the time and place thereof to the person, to affirm, modify, amend or cancel the emergency administrative order. If the Department finds that a person who has been issued an administrative order or an emergency administrative order is not complying with the order's terms, the Department may utilize the enforcement and penalty provisions of this article to secure compliance.

6. The Department shall be entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs in any action brought by the Department under this article in which it substantially prevails on the merits of the case, unless special circumstances would make an award unjust.

D. Any person willfully violating or refusing, failing, or neglecting to comply with any provision of this article or any regulation, permit by rule, order, or certification under this article shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor unless a different penalty is specified.

E. In addition to the penalties provided above, any person who knowingly violates or refuses, fails, or neglects to comply with any provision of this article or any regulation, permit by rule, order, or certification under this article shall be guilty of a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years and a fine of not more than $32,500 for each violation, either or both. The provisions of this subsection shall be deemed to constitute a lesser included offense of the violation set forth under subsection F.

F. Any person who knowingly violates or refuses, fails, or neglects to comply with any provision of this article or any regulation, permit by rule, order, or certification under this article and who knows at the time that he thereby places another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than two years nor more than 15 years and a fine of not more than $250,000, either or both. A defendant that is not an individual shall, upon conviction of violating this section, be subject to a fine not exceeding the greater of $1 million or an amount that is three times the economic benefit realized by the defendant as a result of the offense. The maximum penalty shall be doubled with respect to both fine and imprisonment for any subsequent conviction of the same person.

G. Criminal prosecutions under this article shall be commenced within three years after discovery of the offense, notwithstanding the provisions of any other statute.

2009, cc. 808, 854.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.