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Compliance & Enforcement
The compliance and enforcement process is usually a progressive sequence of actions taken to achieve or compel compliance with environmental statutes and rules. Although the compliance and enforcement process is generally progressive, the EGLE's Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) may select any type of enforcement action at any place in the process as the facts and circumstances warrant, in conjunction with the authority provided by the applicable statutes and regulations.
There are three kinds of enforcement action:
An administrative enforcement action is accomplished in one of two ways. An Administrative Consent Order may be obtained from an Administrative Law Judge by holding an administrative hearing in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, or a voluntary Administrative Consent Agreement may be entered.
A. Administrative Consent Orders
An Administrative Consent Order is a unilateral judgment made by the Supervisor of Wells or by an administrative law judge. Evidence is heard during the administrative hearings process. If the party is not willing to enter into a voluntary administrative agreement and compliance has not been achieved, a unilateral decision is made in the form of an Administrative Consent Order. The judgment orders the party to come into compliance. Failure to comply with an administrative Consent Order can result in a criminal enforcement or civil enforcement action.
B. Administrative Consent Agreements
An Administrative Consent Agreement is a voluntary legally enforceable document that binds the EGLE and another person or legal entity for the purpose of resolving the alleged violation(s) of laws or regulations administered by the EGLE. An Administrative Consent Agreement usually contains provisions requiring the person to correct the violation, take steps to ensure that the violation is not repeated, remedy environmental damage and/or pay a monetary compensatory damage amount, or pay a penalty to deter future noncompliance.
A civil enforcement action is accomplished through a civil court action that is initiated by the Department of the Attorney General (DAG). Civil enforcement actions may include civil penalties and injunctive relief. In a civil enforcement action, the goal is to obtain a Judicial Order requiring compliance to be achieved. The DAG will typically request maximum statutory penalties in all cases. However, the judge makes the final decision regarding the amount of any civil penalties that are imposed.
A criminal enforcement action is conducted through the Environmental Investigation Section (EIS). If OGMD believes that there was criminal intent, then OGMD may seek a criminal enforcement action. A criminal enforcement action can result in a misdemeanor or felony conviction that may be punishable by jail time or monetary penalties. A criminal law judge hears the evidence and renders a decision. The judge is also responsible for sentencing.