2018 CEQ Annual Report

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Personal Impact*

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There were 1,248 violations of environmental laws necessitating enforcement action in 2018, a significant increase over 2017.

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DEEP conducted fewer inspections in 2018 than they did in 2017.


In 2018, the number of violations found was greater than in 2017 and also greater than the five year average. The Council will be examining, again, the relationship between inspection frequency and violations discovered. Past inquiries into this topic determined that decreasing staffing levels resulted in fewer inspections and, consequently, fewer violations. (See below).
Who is breaking Connecticut's environmental laws?


To answer this question, the Council reviewed the Notices of Violation (NOVs)** issued by DEEP in (fiscal years) 2011 through 2016.*** The conclusions of the first year's analysis are summarized in an April 2012 staff memo and the violators are characterized in a series of charts. The overwhelming majority of businesses found to be in violation were small companies, and most violations were related to the storage, transport or distribution of petroleum. The largest group, by far, were gas stations and convenience stores. Only seven percent of NOVs were issued to manufacturers with more than 20 employees, fewer than the number issued to individual citizens.

The Council's review of the 1,098 NOVs issued in 2013 found similar data, though the numbers of inspections and violations were beginning downward trends that continue today. Again, the largest portion were related to violations of laws pertaining to the storage or distribution of petroleum, and most of the laws broken were aimed at reducing the risk that pollution (from spills, discharges, leaks, etc.) would occur in the future. This was true again in 2014, when more than 1,200 NOVs were issued, in 2015 when more than 900 violations were found, and in 2016 which saw about 800 violations.

Focus on Pesticides

DEEP inspected 128 businesses -- mostly stores and certified applicators -- for compliance with pesticide laws in 2016.*** These resulted in 26 NOVs and two other enforcement actions. The greatest number of violations (10) were found at the 25 stores inspected. Only two were agricultural in nature.

The Council inspected the pesticides enforcement data for the first three quarters of 2017. (As noted in the footnotes, indicators on this page only track data by federal fiscal year rather than calendar year; the federal fiscal year ends on September 30.) With the issuance of nine NOVs in June, DEEP has issued a total of 15 NOVs for 2017. The chart below includes the Council's projection for all of 2017 (20 NOVs and two consent orders).****


Pesticide compliance chart legend

As recently as 2014, when DEEP had more staff, it conducted more than twice as many pesticide inspections (287), which resulted in 82 NOVs and eight other enforcement actions.

Each year, DEEP signs a cooperative agreement with the USEPA that projects pesticide enforcement activity. In 2016, DEEP devoted fewer than half of the projected hours to enforcement, took fewer samples, and conducted about half of the projected inspections.

Because NOVS carry no penalties, a person violating pesticide laws bears only a slight risk of being penalized. With compliance rates as low as they are, DEEP's shrinking enforcement presence probably contributes to the large majority of violations going undetected. It is impossible to calculate a precise compliance rate, as many inspections are prompted by complaints and are not conducted randomly. Information about reporting potential violations can be found on the National Pesticide Information Center website.

According to the USEPA, "inspections are the core" of pesticide compliance monitoring.




The Council has discontinued the Compliance Rate indicator. 

The Compliance Rate -- the percentage of inspections that find facilities to be in full compliance -- was developed when physical inspections were more important to the state's enforcement of environmental laws. Now that many violations are detected by other means (such as reviews of monitoring reports submitted electronically, cross-checking data sources to find unpermitted facilities, and following up on companies' failures to respond to initial notices), the Council has concluded that it is impossible to estimate the percentage of companies that are operating in compliance with all environmental laws. A reliable estimate would depend on random sampling of regulated facilities, but such sampling is not likely to occur. Instead, faced with dwindling resources, DEEP focuses enforcement on sectors where violations are commonplace (as discussed below). With no Compliance Rate to report, this page now focuses on aspects of compliance that can be documented.

The Changing Tools of Enforcement

Faced with diminishing staff resources, DEEP has streamlined enforcement procedures in some programs, resulting in issuance of notices to more violators. Electronic submission of reports by permit-holders in some programs also has allowed for more targeted enforcement. To use the well-worn police-and-speeders analogy, this would be concentrating a smaller police force on the roads where speeding is believed to be most prevalent, with the result of more tickets being issued. But targeted enforcement alone might not explain the larger number of violations. Numerous studies have shown that the average speed on highways increases when drivers believe there are no police looking for speeders. Is there an analogous increase in environmental violations when people know that fewer inspections are being conducted?*****

Compliance and Environmental Quality

The role of compliance has changed. For decades, the extent to which people, companies and government complied with environmental laws had an immediate effect on the condition of the state's environment. As compliance improved, so did the air, water, wildlife and other natural resources. With a few notable exceptions, such as some municipal sewage treatment facilities that still pollute large bodies of water from time to time, the current environment owes more to past compliance efforts than to current ones. According to the Council's analysis of enforcement data (see above), most violations and enforcement actions now relate to the prevention of petroleum leaks and spills. In contrast to those, many sites that are not violating any laws contribute enormous amounts of pollution to rivers and streams every time it rains, or in some cases pump so much groundwater that a stream dries up. Compliance and enforcement remain important for maintaining a habitable state, but Connecticut residents should no longer expect higher compliance rates (should they occur) to lead to dramatic improvements in statewide environmental indicators.

*Personal Impact indicators illustrate trends in behavior or practices that can be expected to influence the condition of tomorrow’s air, water, land and wildlife.

**Notices of Violation (NOVs) are informal enforcement tools, generally issued whenever DEEP detects one or more violations at a facility. They carry no financial penalty. The recipient has 30 days to respond. They can be issued for relatively minor or major violations; in cases of the latter type, the recipient might also receive an order, which might carry a financial penalty. NOVs typically outnumber orders by a factor of five or more in any year. NOVs are good indicators of trends in violations because almost all violations found through inspections result in NOVs. DEEP also issues a smaller number of warning letters, and those are included in the NOV totals above. 

***For this indicator only, years pertain to federal fiscal years (i.e., October 1 through September 30), not calendar years.

****The projections for 2017 enforcement actions are based on extrapolations of the data from the first three quarters of the (federal fiscal) year. Because it does not have any numbers for inspections conducted in 2017, the Council based the projected number of inspections on the historic ratio of enforcement actions to inspections.

*****The analogy between speeders and environmental violators is imperfect at best. Speeders hope to avoid a ticket that comes with a significant financial penalty. A Notice of Violation (NOV) issued by DEEP, on the other hand, carries no financial penalty.