While many economists are worried about the possibility of deflation in the current economic crisis, EPA still is concerned about inflation – specifically inflation in the amount of statutory civil penalties under statutes enforced by EPA. In a Federal Register notice dated December 11, 2008, EPA announced increases in its civil penalties.
Some of the increases are not trivial. It is of course true that EPA rarely obtains, or even seeks, the maximum permissible penalty, but the maximum does set the boundary for negotiations with the agency.
All joking aside, EPA has a statutory obligation under the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 to review penalty amounts at least every four years and to adjust the penalties based on the provisions of the DCIA. Nonetheless, in the current situation, EPA’s sense of timing is impeccable.