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December 17, 2017
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The Florida Statutes

The 2017 Florida Statutes

Title XXIX
PUBLIC HEALTH
Chapter 403
ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL
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F.S. 403.121
403.121 Enforcement; procedure; remedies.The department shall have the following judicial and administrative remedies available to it for violations of this chapter, as specified in s. 403.161(1).
(1) Judicial remedies:
(a) The department may institute a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction to establish liability and to recover damages for any injury to the air, waters, or property, including animal, plant, and aquatic life, of the state caused by any violation.
(b) The department may institute a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction to impose and to recover a civil penalty for each violation in an amount of not more than $10,000 per offense. However, the court may receive evidence in mitigation. Each day during any portion of which such violation occurs constitutes a separate offense.
(c) Except as provided in paragraph (2)(c), it shall not be a defense to, or ground for dismissal of, these judicial remedies for damages and civil penalties that the department has failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, has failed to serve a notice of violation, or has failed to hold an administrative hearing prior to the institution of a civil action.
(2) Administrative remedies:
(a) The department may institute an administrative proceeding to establish liability and to recover damages for any injury to the air, waters, or property, including animal, plant, or aquatic life, of the state caused by any violation. The department may order that the violator pay a specified sum as damages to the state. Judgment for the amount of damages determined by the department may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof and may be enforced as any other judgment.
(b) If the department has reason to believe a violation has occurred, it may institute an administrative proceeding to order the prevention, abatement, or control of the conditions creating the violation or other appropriate corrective action. Except for violations involving hazardous wastes, asbestos, or underground injection, the department shall proceed administratively in all cases in which the department seeks administrative penalties that do not exceed $10,000 per assessment as calculated in accordance with subsections (3), (4), (5), (6), and (7). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. s. 300g-2, the administrative penalty assessed pursuant to subsection (3), subsection (4), or subsection (5) against a public water system serving a population of more than 10,000 shall be not less than $1,000 per day per violation. The department shall not impose administrative penalties in excess of $10,000 in a notice of violation. The department shall not have more than one notice of violation seeking administrative penalties pending against the same party at the same time unless the violations occurred at a different site or the violations were discovered by the department subsequent to the filing of a previous notice of violation.
(c) An administrative proceeding shall be instituted by the department’s serving of a written notice of violation upon the alleged violator by certified mail. If the department is unable to effect service by certified mail, the notice of violation may be hand delivered or personally served in accordance with chapter 48. The notice shall specify the provision of the law, rule, regulation, permit, certification, or order of the department alleged to be violated and the facts alleged to constitute a violation thereof. An order for corrective action, penalty assessment, or damages may be included with the notice. When the department is seeking to impose an administrative penalty for any violation by issuing a notice of violation, any corrective action needed to correct the violation or damages caused by the violation must be pursued in the notice of violation or they are waived. However, no order shall become effective until after service and an administrative hearing, if requested within 20 days after service. Failure to request an administrative hearing within this time period shall constitute a waiver thereof, unless the respondent files a written notice with the department within this time period opting out of the administrative process initiated by the department to impose administrative penalties. Any respondent choosing to opt out of the administrative process initiated by the department in an action that seeks the imposition of administrative penalties must file a written notice with the department within 20 days after service of the notice of violation opting out of the administrative process. A respondent’s decision to opt out of the administrative process does not preclude the department from initiating a state court action seeking injunctive relief, damages, and the judicial imposition of civil penalties.
(d) If a person timely files a petition challenging a notice of violation, that person will thereafter be referred to as the respondent. The hearing requested by the respondent shall be held within 180 days after the department has referred the initial petition to the Division of Administrative Hearings unless the parties agree to a later date. The department has the burden of proving with the preponderance of the evidence that the respondent is responsible for the violation. No administrative penalties should be imposed unless the department satisfies that burden. Following the close of the hearing, the administrative law judge shall issue a final order on all matters, including the imposition of an administrative penalty. When the department seeks to enforce that portion of a final order imposing administrative penalties pursuant to s. 120.69, the respondent shall not assert as a defense the inappropriateness of the administrative remedy. The department retains its final-order authority in all administrative actions that do not request the imposition of administrative penalties.
(e) After filing a petition requesting a formal hearing in response to a notice of violation in which the department imposes an administrative penalty, a respondent may request that a private mediator be appointed to mediate the dispute by contacting the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium within 10 days after receipt of the initial order from the administrative law judge. The Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium shall pay all of the costs of the mediator and for up to 8 hours of the mediator’s time per case at $150 per hour. Upon notice from the respondent, the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium shall provide to the respondent a panel of possible mediators from the area in which the hearing on the petition would be heard. The respondent shall select the mediator and notify the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium of the selection within 15 days of receipt of the proposed panel of mediators. The Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium shall provide all of the administrative support for the mediation process. The mediation must be completed at least 15 days before the final hearing date set by the administrative law judge.
(f) In any administrative proceeding brought by the department, the prevailing party shall recover all costs as provided in ss. 57.041 and 57.071. The costs must be included in the final order. The respondent is the prevailing party when an order is entered awarding no penalties to the department and such order has not been reversed on appeal or the time for seeking judicial review has expired. The respondent shall be entitled to an award of attorney’s fees if the administrative law judge determines that the notice of violation issued by the department seeking the imposition of administrative penalties was not substantially justified as defined in s. 57.111(3)(e). No award of attorney’s fees as provided by this subsection shall exceed $15,000.
(g) Nothing herein shall be construed as preventing any other legal or administrative action in accordance with law. Nothing in this subsection shall limit the department’s authority provided in ss. 403.131, 403.141, and this section to judicially pursue injunctive relief. When the department exercises its authority to judicially pursue injunctive relief, penalties in any amount up to the statutory maximum sought by the department must be pursued as part of the state court action and not by initiating a separate administrative proceeding. The department retains the authority to judicially pursue penalties in excess of $10,000 for violations not specifically included in the administrative penalty schedule, or for multiple or multiday violations alleged to exceed a total of $10,000. The department also retains the authority provided in ss. 403.131, 403.141, and this section to judicially pursue injunctive relief and damages, if a notice of violation seeking the imposition of administrative penalties has not been issued. The department has the authority to enter into a settlement, either before or after initiating a notice of violation, and the settlement may include a penalty amount different from the administrative penalty schedule. Any case filed in state court because it is alleged to exceed a total of $10,000 in penalties may be settled in the court action for less than $10,000.
(h) Chapter 120 shall apply to any administrative action taken by the department or any delegated program pursuing administrative penalties in accordance with this section.
(3) Except for violations involving hazardous wastes, asbestos, or underground injection, administrative penalties must be calculated according to the following schedule:
(a) For a drinking water contamination violation, the department shall assess a penalty of $2,000 for a Maximum Containment Level (MCL) violation; plus $1,000 if the violation is for a primary inorganic, organic, or radiological Maximum Contaminant Level or it is a fecal coliform bacteria violation; plus $1,000 if the violation occurs at a community water system; and plus $1,000 if any Maximum Contaminant Level is exceeded by more than 100 percent. For failure to obtain a clearance letter prior to placing a drinking water system into service when the system would not have been eligible for clearance, the department shall assess a penalty of $3,000.
(b) For failure to obtain a required wastewater permit, other than a permit required for surface water discharge, the department shall assess a penalty of $1,000. For a domestic or industrial wastewater violation not involving a surface water or groundwater quality violation, the department shall assess a penalty of $2,000 for an unpermitted or unauthorized discharge or effluent-limitation exceedance. For an unpermitted or unauthorized discharge or effluent-limitation exceedance that resulted in a surface water or groundwater quality violation, the department shall assess a penalty of $5,000.
(c) For a dredge and fill or stormwater violation, the department shall assess a penalty of $1,000 for unpermitted or unauthorized dredging or filling or unauthorized construction of a stormwater management system against the person or persons responsible for the illegal dredging or filling, or unauthorized construction of a stormwater management system plus $2,000 if the dredging or filling occurs in an aquatic preserve, Outstanding Florida Water, conservation easement, or Class I or Class II surface water, plus $1,000 if the area dredged or filled is greater than one-quarter acre but less than or equal to one-half acre, and plus $1,000 if the area dredged or filled is greater than one-half acre but less than or equal to one acre. The administrative penalty schedule shall not apply to a dredge and fill violation if the area dredged or filled exceeds one acre. The department retains the authority to seek the judicial imposition of civil penalties for all dredge and fill violations involving more than one acre. The department shall assess a penalty of $3,000 for the failure to complete required mitigation, failure to record a required conservation easement, or for a water quality violation resulting from dredging or filling activities, stormwater construction activities or failure of a stormwater treatment facility. For stormwater management systems serving less than 5 acres, the department shall assess a penalty of $2,000 for the failure to properly or timely construct a stormwater management system. In addition to the penalties authorized in this subsection, the department shall assess a penalty of $5,000 per violation against the contractor or agent of the owner or tenant that conducts unpermitted or unauthorized dredging or filling. For purposes of this paragraph, the preparation or signing of a permit application by a person currently licensed under chapter 471 to practice as a professional engineer shall not make that person an agent of the owner or tenant.
(d) For mangrove trimming or alteration violations, the department shall assess a penalty of $5,000 per violation against the contractor or agent of the owner or tenant that conducts mangrove trimming or alteration without a permit as required by s. 403.9328. For purposes of this paragraph, the preparation or signing of a permit application by a person currently licensed under chapter 471 to practice as a professional engineer shall not make that person an agent of the owner or tenant.
(e) For solid waste violations, the department shall assess a penalty of $2,000 for the unpermitted or unauthorized disposal or storage of solid waste; plus $1,000 if the solid waste is Class I or Class III (excluding yard trash) or if the solid waste is construction and demolition debris in excess of 20 cubic yards, plus $1,000 if the waste is disposed of or stored in any natural or artificial body of water or within 500 feet of a potable water well, plus $1,000 if the waste contains PCB at a concentration of 50 parts per million or greater; untreated biomedical waste; friable asbestos greater than 1 cubic meter which is not wetted, bagged, and covered; used oil greater than 25 gallons; or 10 or more lead acid batteries. The department shall assess a penalty of $3,000 for failure to properly maintain leachate control; unauthorized burning; failure to have a trained spotter on duty at the working face when accepting waste; failure to provide access control for three consecutive inspections. The department shall assess a penalty of $2,000 for failure to construct or maintain a required stormwater management system.
(f) For an air emission violation, the department shall assess a penalty of $1,000 for an unpermitted or unauthorized air emission or an air-emission-permit exceedance, plus $1,000 if the emission results in an air quality violation, plus $3,000 if the emission was from a major source and the source was major for the pollutant in violation; plus $1,000 if the emission was more than 150 percent of the allowable level.
(g) For storage tank system and petroleum contamination violations, the department shall assess a penalty of $5,000 for failure to empty a damaged storage system as necessary to ensure that a release does not occur until repairs to the storage system are completed; when a release has occurred from that storage tank system; for failure to timely recover free product; or for failure to conduct remediation or monitoring activities until a no-further-action or site-rehabilitation completion order has been issued. The department shall assess a penalty of $3,000 for failure to timely upgrade a storage tank system. The department shall assess a penalty of $2,000 for failure to conduct or maintain required release detection; failure to timely investigate a suspected release from a storage system; depositing motor fuel into an unregistered storage tank system; failure to timely assess or remediate petroleum contamination; or failure to properly install a storage tank system. The department shall assess a penalty of $1,000 for failure to properly operate, maintain, or close a storage tank system.
(4) In an administrative proceeding, in addition to the penalties that may be assessed under subsection (3), the department shall assess administrative penalties according to the following schedule:
(a) For failure to satisfy financial responsibility requirements or for violation of s. 377.371(1), $5,000.
(b) For failure to install, maintain, or use a required pollution control system or device, $4,000.
(c) For failure to obtain a required permit before construction or modification, $3,000.
(d) For failure to conduct required monitoring or testing; failure to conduct required release detection; or failure to construct in compliance with a permit, $2,000.
(e) For failure to maintain required staff to respond to emergencies; failure to conduct required training; failure to prepare, maintain, or update required contingency plans; failure to adequately respond to emergencies to bring an emergency situation under control; or failure to submit required notification to the department, $1,000.
(f) Except as provided in subsection (2) with respect to public water systems serving a population of more than 10,000, for failure to prepare, submit, maintain, or use required reports or other required documentation, $500.
(5) Except as provided in subsection (2) with respect to public water systems serving a population of more than 10,000, for failure to comply with any other departmental regulatory statute or rule requirement not otherwise identified in this section, the department may assess a penalty of $500.
(6) For each additional day during which a violation occurs, the administrative penalties in subsection (3), subsection (4), and subsection (5) may be assessed per day per violation.
(7) The history of noncompliance of the violator for any previous violation resulting in an executed consent order, but not including a consent order entered into without a finding of violation, or resulting in a final order or judgment after the effective date of this law involving the imposition of $2,000 or more in penalties shall be taken into consideration in the following manner:
(a) One previous such violation within 5 years prior to the filing of the notice of violation will result in a 25-percent per day increase in the scheduled administrative penalty.
(b) Two previous such violations within 5 years prior to the filing of the notice of violation will result in a 50-percent per day increase in the scheduled administrative penalty.
(c) Three or more previous such violations within 5 years prior to the filing of the notice of violation will result in a 100-percent per day increase in the scheduled administrative penalty.
(8) The direct economic benefit gained by the violator from the violation, where consideration of economic benefit is provided by Florida law or required by federal law as part of a federally delegated or approved program, shall be added to the scheduled administrative penalty. The total administrative penalty, including any economic benefit added to the scheduled administrative penalty, shall not exceed $10,000.
(9) The administrative penalties assessed for any particular violation shall not exceed $5,000 against any one violator, unless the violator has a history of noncompliance, the economic benefit of the violation as described in subsection (8) exceeds $5,000, or there are multiday violations. The total administrative penalties shall not exceed $10,000 per assessment for all violations attributable to a specific person in the notice of violation.
(10) The administrative law judge may receive evidence in mitigation. The penalties identified in subsection (3), subsection (4), and subsection (5) may be reduced up to 50 percent by the administrative law judge for mitigating circumstances, including good faith efforts to comply prior to or after discovery of the violations by the department. Upon an affirmative finding that the violation was caused by circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the respondent and could not have been prevented by respondent’s due diligence, the administrative law judge may further reduce the penalty.
(11) Penalties collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Water Quality Assurance Trust Fund or other trust fund designated by statute and shall be used to fund the restoration of ecosystems, or polluted areas of the state, as defined by the department, to their condition before pollution occurred. The Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium may use a portion of the fund to administer the mediation process provided in paragraph (2)(e) and to contract with private mediators for administrative penalty cases.
(12) The purpose of the administrative penalty schedule and process is to provide a more predictable and efficient manner for individuals and businesses to resolve relatively minor environmental disputes. Subsection (3), subsection (4), subsection (5), subsection (6), or subsection (7) shall not be construed as limiting a state court in the assessment of damages. The administrative penalty schedule does not apply to the judicial imposition of civil penalties in state court as provided in this section.
History.s. 13, ch. 67-436; ss. 26, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 1, ch. 70-114; s. 1, ch. 70-139; s. 349, ch. 71-136; s. 112, ch. 71-355; s. 1, ch. 72-286; s. 138, ch. 77-104; s. 1, ch. 77-117; s. 14, ch. 78-95; s. 263, ch. 81-259; s. 3, ch. 90-82; s. 61, ch. 96-321; s. 2, ch. 2001-258; s. 2, ch. 2002-165; ss. 43, 44, 76, ch. 2004-269; s. 15, ch. 2004-381; s. 71, ch. 2015-229.