DEP uses its enforcement authority to compel compliance with environmental requirements, punish violators, deter environmental violations by others, and to foster and promote sustained environmental compliance and stewardship.

DEP's Penalty Authority. Through the Administrative Penalties Statute, M.G.L. c.21A, s16, the Department is authorized to issue civil administrative penalties of up to $25,000 per day for specific types of violations of the major environmental statutes the agency is charged with implementing. The Attorney General of Massachusetts has independent authority to prosecute civil and criminal environmental cases in court, and seek civil penalties as well as criminal fines.

DEP's Order Authority. Many of the environmental statutes the Department administers permit the agency to issue orders requiring compliance with a statutory or regulatory obligation, or cease and desist the illegal activity.

DEP's Other Enforcement Tools. The Department's enforcement strategies include consideration of other options in addition to assessing civil administrative penalties - including targeting compliance initiatives with enforcement components in specific sectors, activities or geographic areas, encouraging self audits and self disclosure of violations, incorporating supplemental environmental projects in administrative settlements, encouraging the implementation of environmental management systems in administrative settlements, and referring cases to other governmental enforcement bodies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Attorney General of Massachusetts and municipal authorities. Our mission is to use all of these tools to achieve comprehensive and sustained environmental compliance in order to solve environmental problems and continuously improve the state of our environment.

DEP's Enforcement Infrastructure. Most of the enforcement actions brought by DEP are coordinated through the operations of one of the regional offices, although a few programs operate from the main Boston office. Case review is coordinated through regular meetings of senior regional staff in Regional Enforcement Review Committees in each region. Cases may also be presented to the Case Screening Committee, comprised of representatives from the regions, the commissioner's office, the Office of Enforcement Policy and Assistance, the Environmental Strike Force, the General Counsel's office, the Attorney General's office and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

The Office of Enforcement Policy and Assistance (OEPA):

OEPA's mission is to promote the development of effective DEP enforcement goals, policies and initiatives and to oversee fair and consistent implementation of the agency's enforcement authority and use of the agency's discretion in determining appropriate enforcement responses.

The Office is also responsible for:

  • Maintaining the Department's compliance and enforcement databases;
  • Publishing the Department's annual report of compliance and enforcement accomplishments;
  • Publishing and providing support for the Department's compliance incentive policies for use by the regulated community;
  • Conducting enforcement related audits, analysis and oversight;
  • Communicating Department enforcement planning with external advisory groups, U.S. EPA and other interested groups;
  • Managing the Department's oversight of the Clean State Executive Order and State Sustainability Initiative to promote sustainable State agency environmental compliance.