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What To Do When DEQ Knocks At Your Door?

Frank Hammond Sept. 5, 2023

If you operate and industrial or commercial site, you are always at risk of offending the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). If you are discharging a pollutant to waters of the state (a defined term), you might have a problem with the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) NPDES program. If you are emitting a pollutant, you might have a problem with clean air regulations. If your land has hazardous waste deposits, you might have a problem under CERCLA. Whatever it is, you could come under scrutiny by DEQ. If that happens, several general steps apply.

First Steps

DEQ will first try to work with you to resolve the violation, if any, by imposing additional regulation on you. For example, the agency might require you to come into compliance or get a permit, like coverage under the general stormwater permit 1200-Z. Or DEQ might require you not to emit the offending pollutant. You can and should negotiate with DEQ during this period.

File a Notice of Appeal

If DEQ doesn’t like your response, it will issue a notice of violation (NOV) and enforcement order. DEQ will generally impose a fine in addition to requiring compliance with the order. That gives you two choices. First, you can comply with the NOV and pay the fine. But second, you can choose to contest the NOV. If you take the second approach, you must file a notice of appeal withing 20 days. This period cannot be extended.

With the notice of appeal, you can request an informal conference with DEQ to work through the issues. DEQ will schedule the conference and you will have the opportunity for further negotiations. If, however, DEQ will not settle with you the case will be referred to an administrative law judge for a hearing and decision on the order. If you don’t like that result, the next step is an appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Get Expert Help

Negotiating with DEQ at any step, and litigating the NOV, is a tricky business, as essentially you will be engaging in complex litigation. Your best bet is to get an experienced environmental lawyer at the start who can guide you through the process. Remember dealing with DEQ is a complex and risky process. It is best to have expert help at the start.

I can provide that help you need to handle your issues on this topic. I have been working for and against DEQ for 20 years, and I am experienced with administrative and environmental law. I currently am in litigation with DEQ for its regulatory overreach. Please give me a call if you would like to discuss a problem that you have.  Make sure to schedule a consultation with us or through email to make sure an expert can help you out today. Make sure to follow us on Linkedin and message us if you have any questions.