Benton Clean Air Agency

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.                                                                                                                                                                        

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.