***Note: this bill has been substituted, this analysis may no longer be valid***
Stericycle became quite the corporate pariah on Capitol Hill for the past few legislative sessions – though the surface issues have been resolved, with the company paying a $2.3 million fine and agreeing to move to Tooele County, the company has managed to expose deeper issues with the state’s environmental laws.
One of the reasons that negotiations took place between Stericycle and the state – as opposed to the state simply laying down the law literally and figuratively – was because there was no law to lay down. It turns out that there simply was not enough time for the Department of Environmental Quality to adequately put together cases against violators such as Stericycle from the time between a violation and levying an actual fine.
[pullquote]Due to thin resources, environmental regulators are having difficulty bringing charges against pollution violators – Senator Luz Escamilla (Democrat – Salt Lake City) wants to give the Department of Environmental Quality more time to prosecute with SB 49[/pullquote]It is for this reason that Senator Luz Escamilla (Democrat – Salt Lake City) is proposing SB 49 – Statute of Limitations on Environmental Code Violations.
This is actually a second attempt by Escamilla to pass such legislation. Last year, Escamilla proposed SB 208 which not only included the provision to extend the statute of limitations on code violations but also upped fines for violations.
2015’s bill would die in a 12-14 vote in the Senate – no doubt Escamilla has removed fine increases in an attempt to increase the bill’s odds of passage.
However Escamilla may still run into trouble with SB 49 – lawmakers almost seemed upset at Escamilla in her attempt to try to make it easier to file charges against those who violate – wondering aloud why the Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t able to enforce its own rules or simply make a change to said rules. Though Escamilla explained that resources were spread too thin to properly investigate violations and that the Department of Environmental Quality boards (which are partially populated with heavy industry interests such as Kennecott and Tesoro) have little incentive to increase standards themselves, lawmakers were only partially moved.
It will be interesting to see if the legislature takes this necessary step to bring violators to some form of justice.
To contact Senator Escamilla, click here or call 801-550-6434 (Cell).
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