Appeals Court OKs|State Fines of Polluters

     (CN) – Massachusetts need not notify a person or company that already is aware of an environmental violation before assessing penalties, the state Court of Appeals ruled.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts sued gas station operator Tony Eskanian, trustee Ramona Eskanian, and four gas stations for violations of the state Clean Air Act, and the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Materials Release Prevention Act.
     The trial court found that defendants failed to file cleanup documentation reports after hazardous releases at the four gas stations, and levied $600,000 in penalties.
The defendants appealed, saying the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was required to notify them before every penalty assessed.
The appeals court disagreed. Once someone becomes aware of a violation, self-reported or otherwise, he becomes “drawn into” the statutory scheme and no further notice is required, the three-judge panel wrote.
Nor was the appellate court persuaded by arguments that quasi-governmental licensed site professionals became responsible for filing the reports after being hired to advise and guide a cleanup.
The court also shot down Eskanian’s argument that he should not be liable individually, since he never named the corporation for which he claimed to work.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s assessment of penalties.

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