IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Administrative Enforcement Orders
Section 25404.1.1 of the Health and Safety Code contains the law that authorizes the unified program agencies of California to issue Administrative Enforcement Orders (AEO) and assess penalties to businesses that violate the laws and regulations on hazardous wastes, hazardous materials, underground storage tank, aboveground petroleum storage, California accidental release prevention.
In May of 2009, this Certified Unified Program Agency, the Health Hazardous Materials Division (HHMD) of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, had filed its 100th Administrative Enforcement Order. The Chief of HHMD held a meeting to appreciate the diligence and hard work of 35 Hazardous Materials Specialists.
To date, nearly 85 percent of AEO initiated have been settled during hearings between the HHMD and the business owner, As a result, the owners agreed to pay the CUPA for the assessed penalties and the costs of investigation, and more importantly, the owner complied with the laws and regulations. For this CUPA, the AEO has become an effective enforcement option: it obtains compliance from businesses with significant violations and from recalcitrant violators.
The remaining 15 percent of AEO have not been settled during the hearing between the owner and the CUPA. As a result, HHMD referred three AEO cases to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), four AEO await conversion to civil judgments, and five AEO have been cancelled due to the inability of HHMD to locate the respondent or because there is not enough evidence to show a violation of the law or regulation.
HHMD has presented three cases before the OAH and prevailed in all. The first case involved the failure of an owner to pay for the permit fees, and the other two cases involved the failure of owners to comply with hazardous materials and hazardous waste violations. In all cases, the respondents were ordered to pay the HHMD for administrative costs and penalties.
The HHMD Investigations Unit is currently working with County Counsel to pursue injunctive relief and identify the best options for the collection of judgments. With an inventory that includes over 16,000 hazardous waste generators and 11,000 hazardous materials handler program elements, HHMD role in safeguarding the public health and protecting the environment through inspection and enforcement actions remain a formidable task. To this end, the AEO remains our last recourse to achieve compliance.