Recent Developments for Pollution Reporting in Florida
May 24, 2017
This legislative session, the Legislature passed SB 1018, a part of which creates new pollution reporting requirements for certain types of pollution releases. Though it has yet to be presented to him, the Governor is expected to sign SB 1018. The legislation essentially requires an owner or operator of an installation, including public owners or operators, to file an additional report to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), if the owner or operator discovers a release of a substance that must be reported to the State Watch Office (SWO). The report must be filed within 24 hours of the discovery of the release and the information required to be included in it is the same that would be reported to the SWO (the SWO has different reporting requirements depending on the situation). If the substance migrates outside the property boundary, then an additional notification must be provided to FDEP within 24 hours of it being discovered. SB 1018 provides that the required notification does not constitute an admission of liability or harm. Also, if multiple parties are required to provide notification for the same incident, one notification will suffice for all parties. If that notification is not provided, however, then FDEP may seek enforcement against all parties.
Failure to provide the required notification will subject the owner or operator to civil penalties under § 403.121. These penalties include damages and fines of up to $10,000 for each day of the violation. There are no criminal penalties imposed under SB 1018.
SB 1018 requires FDEP to publish all notices it receives to a website within 24 hours of receipt of the notice. In addition, FDEP must create an electronic mailing list to which the public may subscribe to receive regional notifications of all pollution notices submitted within that region. FDEP must create an electronic form and email address where owners and operators may submit pollution notifications.
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