The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) derives its enforcement power and ability to assess penalties from La. R.S. §§ 30:2025, 30:2050.2, and 30:2050.3. The typical chronology for the administrative enforcement process is that LDEQ will first issue a notice of potential penalty (NOPP), compliance order (CO), or consolidated compliance order & notice of potential penalty (CCO/NOPP) for alleged violations of the Louisiana Environmental Quality Act (LEQA). The Respondent then has the opportunity to appeal or settle the matter. The CCO/NOPP has typically been divided into four sections:
- Findings of Fact;
- Compliance Order;
- Further Notice, and;
- Notice of Potential Penalty.
Recently, however, LDEQ added a new section to its CCO/NOPPs entitled, “Request to Close.” The main effect of this new section is to allow the Respondent to indicate whether there is any interest in discussing settlement and, if so, to present the Department with a settlement offer.
The new Request to Close section is divided into three parts:
- Statement of Compliance;
- Settlement Offer, and;
- Certification Statement.
The Statement of Compliance portion contains a checklist for the Respondent to ensure that it has provided the LDEQ with all of the information that was requested in the Compliance Order section. The Settlement Offer portion is optional and allows the Respondent to indicate whether there is any interest in entering into settlement negotiations with the LDEQ, with the understanding that the Department has the right to assess civil penalties based on LAC 33:I.Subpart I.Chapter 7. The section also provides an opportunity for the Respondent to make an offer of settlement on the form itself to close the matter out. If the Respondent chooses this option, then the Department will review the settlement offer and will later notify the Respondent as to whether or not the offer has been accepted. Additionally, if the Respondent decides to include a Beneficial Environmental Project (BEP) in its settlement offer, then the Respondent can provide a justification and description of its proposed BEP. The third and final portion of the Request to Close is the Certification Statement. In this section, the Respondent certifies that, among other things, based on reasonable inquiry, the information being provided to the Department is true, accurate, and complete.