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United States v. Charles George Trucking Co.

Citation: 17 ELR 21152
No. No. 87-1039, 823 F.2d 685/26 ERC 1286/(1st Cir., 07/13/1987) Decision against parents aff'd

The court holds that failure to answer the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) information requests under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) § 3007(a) may subject a defendant to the imposition of civil penalities pursuant to RCRA § 3008(g), and neither the Fourth nor Fifth Amendment precludes the imposition of penalties under § 3008(g). The court first rules that the civil penalties provision applies to violations of § 3007(a). The express language of the statute demonstrates that § 3007(a) is part of the subchapter to which § 3008(g) refers. The court rejects defendants' argument that Congress' inclusion of § 3008(g) in 1980 as part of a package of RCRA amendments intended to address the problem of midnight dumping indicates congressional intent to limit the section's applicability to active polluters, since the statutory language is so clear. Moreover, denying EPA this enforcement authority would handicap the agency in its mission to effectively regulate the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. The court next holds that the provision in § 3008(g) allowing daily accrual of penalties for noncompliance with EPA's § 3007(a) request did not constitute an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment, nor did the information request violate defendants' rights to procedural due process. EPA offered defendants the opportunity to object to the request with a good faith explanation of their failure to respond, yet defendants chose not to do so. Defendants' requests for extensions of time to answer EPA's questions did not raise any objections to the questions asked or defendants' duty to answer, and defendants never asked for any administrative or judicial hearing to contest the legality of the inquiries. Even if EPA's actions did implicate a constitutionally protected property or liberty interest, the agency afforded defendants adequate notice and opportunity to be heard. Retrospective daily penalties were not in fact assessed, and the responses to the questions were compelled and the penalties assessed only after an in-court hearing.

[The district court's decision appears at 16 ELR 20495. A related decision involving defendants' children is published at 17 ELR 20085.]

Counsel for Appellants
Bruce F. Smith, Lisa Renee Schwartz
Jager, Smith & Stetler
28 State St., Boston MA 02109
(617) 523-3075

Counsel for Appellee
Elizabeth A. Peterson
land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2000

Before COFFIN, DAVIS* and SELYA, Circuit Judges.