What is a Compliance Commitment Agreement?
The Illinois Environmental Protection Act (Act) authorizes the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve alleged violations of environmental laws without the involvement of prosecutorial authorities, such as the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, a county state's attorney or U.S. EPA, through the use of a Compliance Commitment Agreement (CCA).
The Illinois EPA has discretionary authority to enter into CCAs and will generally deny the use of CCAs and pursue formal enforcement if the nature and seriousness of the alleged violations warrant such action.
Pursuant to Section 31 of the Act, an entity that receives a Violation Notice from the Illinois EPA may voluntarily request to enter into a CCA in order to resolve the alleged violations. A CCA is a written document that contains specific activities that an entity must take in order to address alleged violations of environmental laws, regulations or permits, as well as timelines for returning to compliance with the Act and correcting any environmental harm. The Illinois EPA will not refer alleged violations that are the subject of a successfully-completed CCA to prosecutorial authorities.
Recent Changes to CCAs
In the past, an entity that violated the terms of a CCA could be referred to the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, a county state's attorney or U.S. EPA for the underlying violations only. The CCA itself was not an enforceable document.
On August 23, 2011, Public Act 97-519 was signed into law. This amended the Act to authorize the Illinois EPA to enter into a CCA that is an enforceable document.
How does Public Act 97-519 change the CCA process?
- A CCA is now a formal document that must be signed by both the violator and the Illinois EPA. (A sample CCA can be found here.)
- Any violation of a term or condition of a CCA will now be considered an additional violation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, beyond any underlying alleged violations contained in the Violation Notice.
- Any violation of a term or condition of a CCA will automatically subject the violator to an additional civil penalty of $2,000, which will be assessed by a prosecutorial authority beyond any other civil or criminal penalty that may apply.
- The Office of the Illinois Attorney General, when determining whether to file a complaint on its own motion for alleged violations contained in a Violation Notice, must consider the successful completion of a CCA as a weighted factor in the violator's favor.
- Utilization of a formal CCA document will provide greater certainty to the regulated community regarding the full and final resolution of alleged violations contained in a Violation Notice.
If I receive a Violation Notice from the Illinois EPA, what steps must I take to enter into a CCA?
- You must submit proposed terms for a CCA, via certified mail, to the Illinois EPA within 45 days after receipt of a Violation Notice, or if a meeting is requested regarding the Violation Notice, within 21 days after the meeting is held. Proposed CCA terms must include specific detailed steps that will be taken to achieve compliance, as well as the necessary dates for completion of these steps.
The CCA is not effective until the Illinois EPA signs it. Amendments or modifications to the proposed formal CCA that is issued by the Illinois EPA may be made by mutual agreement of both parties only after it has been fully executed.
- Within 30 days after receiving your proposed CCA terms, the Illinois EPA will accept or modify them and issue a proposed formal CCA containing the terms necessary to achieve compliance. Alternatively, the Illinois EPA may elect to send you a letter indicating that no CCA will be issued for the alleged violations and the reasons for the non-issuance.
- If the Illinois EPA issues a proposed formal CCA and you agree to its terms and conditions, you must sign the CCA and send it via certified mail to the Illinois EPA within 30 days of receipt. Upon receipt of a signed and timely submitted CCA, the Illinois EPA will sign it and return the fully-executed CCA to you. Alternatively, you may elect to reject the Illinois EPA's proposed CCA.
Who do I contact if I have questions regarding the new CCA process?
Please contact the following individuals if you have questions regarding CCAs: