Senator proposes massive air emissions penalty increase

By Michael Shaw

Capitol Update, March 23, 2018 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

SB 1144 by Senator Bill Dodd increases penalties for violations of emissions limits from certain large industrial facilities to tremendously high levels less than four months after this same Legislature and Governor increased those same penalties 400 percent as part of the cap-and-trade extension deal last year.

The bill increases penalties for Title V facilities, including refineries, petrochemical plants and fossil-fuel-powered electricity-generating power plants, that violate emissions regulations to at least $30,000 per day, far above the current $5,000 level set under AB 617 just four months ago. For cases where negligence is found those fines would be $75,000 per day. If the facility fails to take corrective action, the fine would be $125,000 per day and should the violation be shown to be “willful and intentional” the fine is $250,000 per day. Repeated violations would rise to $500,000 per day.

SB 1144 also redefines a “serious threat to the health or welfare of the public” to include violations that result in an injury to one person as well as the “nuisance, or annoyance” of 25 people. If this bill passes, the combined increase in fines will total up to 2,900 percent. For example, an accidental emission release resulting in an annoyance to a small area with no health effects or need for medical treatment could be treated as equivalent to a release resulting in a member of the public that has to be treated at a hospital for an injury.  

The bill also does not distinguish between cases where an action at the facility resulted in the release or the release was the result of a loss of electrical power or some other factor beyond the control of the facility.

CMTA supports compliance with all laws and regulations governing the respective regulated facilities. However, CMTA OPPOSES SB 1144 because increasing fines by 2,900 percent in one legislative session is clearly excessive.

SB 1144 was scheduled for hearing in Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 4th, but has been removed from the agenda at the request of Senator Dodd pending further discussions.

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