Maine Information relating to US EPA ECHO
State and Federal differences in vocabulary and policy will affect your understanding and ability to make fully informed decisions about the compliance and enforcement status reported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) Web site.
This page is Maine DEP's supplement to the EPA ECHO Web site. You should use the additional information provided here to better understand Maine DEP's role in ECHO and the significance of data available through that Web site, beyond what is already explained on USEPA's ECHO site.
Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement in Maine
Maine, like all other states, uses specific and sometimes unique terminology to identify a regulated entity's compliance status and those enforcement actions taken as a result of noncompliance. Individuals obtaining compliance and enforcement information through the USEPA's ECHO website must understand that Maine's terminology often varies from that used by the federal government. This difference in vocabulary may result in a false impression of inactivity, or inappropriately harsh activity, when reviewing a report created with ECHO.
The following paragraphs describe the commonly used enforcement tools available to Maine DEP. Extensive definitions of each, and a description of our approach in applying them, are available in the Maine DEP Non-Compliance Response Guidance.
- Letter of Warning. LOWs are sent to provide regulated parties with information about an alleged violation where the matter is relatively minor and further civil enforcement action is not anticipated if the violation is promptly corrected. A history of LOWs or a LOW not followed with prompt corrective action increases the likelihood that additional enforcement actions will be pursued. LOWs are not recognized as enforcement actions in USEPA's databases.
- Notice of Violation. An NOV is sent where a significant violation exists and there is a high probability of future civil enforcement action. NOVs must be issued prior to initiating nearly all other civil enforcement actions. Performing the corrective action identified in an NOV does not preclude additional civil enforcement actions or additional remedial work. NOVs are not recognized as enforcement actions in USEPA's databases.
- Administrative Consent Agreement. An ACA is proposed to achieve a written binding administrative settlement, rather than pursuit of judicial action. ACAs represent legally binding contracts between violators and the State of Maine: they prescribe appropriate penalties and corrective actions. Until an ACA is finalized, no activity taken in conjunction with it will be recognized as an enforcement action in USEPA's databases.
- 80K Action. DEP may pursue violations in Maine District Court under Rule of Civil Procedure 80K. These court actions are typically filed when administrative settlement efforts have failed. Until an 80K resolution is finalized by the court, no activity taken in conjunction with it will be recognized as an enforcement action in USEPA's databases.
- Referral to the Department of the Attorney General. The AG is constitutionally responsible for acting as the Department's legal counsel and is the chief law enforcement agency for the State. The Department refers civil enforcement actions to the AG when administrative settlement can't be reached and serious violations exist, immediate injunctive relief is sought, and/or significant legal issues are in dispute. Criminal enforcement actions are automatically referred to the AG's Office for pursuit in an appropriate judicial forum. Until a Superior Court resolution is finalized, no activity taken in conjunction with it will be recognized as an enforcement action in USEPA's databases.
Gaps in ECHO Information
An ECHO report may show that a facility has had violations during a particular time period and an enforcement action has not been taken. A significant limitation on the information available in that report is that many actions taken by Maine DEP, such as the issuance of an NOV or the proposal and ongoing negotiation of an ACA, are not recognized in ECHO-generated reports as enforcement actions. As a result, the data you receive in an ECHO report may appear to show violations remaining unaddressed, when actually the violations ended long ago and an enforcement case is actively being pursued to resolution.
As a result of the differences in vocabulary and policy on what constitutes an enforcement action you may need to contact Maine DEP's enforcement director. By contacting Maine DEP with your questions, you will obtain the most current information available about facilities reported by ECHO. Contact Pete Carney by e-mail or telephone 207-287-4305.