House Bill No. 524
Introduced By _______________________________________________________________________________
A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act generally revising remediation requirements for hazardous and deleterious substances; providing that a person liable for remedial action have the opportunity to respond prior to remedial action being initiated by the state; clarifying the process for when state orders may be issued; eliminating the requirement for agreements to be filed in district court as consent decrees; increasing eligibility for sites submitting voluntary remediation plans; providing for appeal of agency decisions regarding remediation plans; amending sections 75-10-711, 75-10-723, 75-10-732, and 75-10-736, MCA; and providing an immediate effective date."
STATEMENT OF INTENT
It is the intent of this bill to provide potentially liable persons the opportunity to take the necessary remedial action before the state takes action.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:
Section 1. Section 75-10-711, MCA, is amended to read:
"75-10-711. Remedial action -- orders -- penalties -- judicial proceedings. (1) The department may take remedial action whenever:
(a) there has been a release or there is a substantial threat of a release into the environment that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health, welfare, or safety or the environment; and
(b) the appropriate remedial action will not be done properly and expeditiously by any person liable under 75-10-715(1) and that person has been given the opportunity by letter to expeditiously perform the appropriate remedial action. Any person liable under 75-10-715(1) shall take immediate action to contain, remove, and abate the release.
(2) Whenever the department is authorized to act pursuant to subsection (1) or has reason to believe that a release has occurred or is about to occur, the department may undertake remedial action in the form of any investigation, monitoring, survey, testing, or other information gathering as authorized by 75-10-707 that is necessary and appropriate to identify the existence, nature, origin, and extent of the release or the threat of release and the extent and imminence of the danger to the public health, safety, or welfare or the environment.
Any person liable under 75-10-715(1) must take immediate action to contain, remove, and abate the release. Except as
provided in 75-10-712, the department is authorized to draw upon the fund to take action under subsection (1) if it has
made diligent good faith efforts to determine the identity of the person or persons liable for the release or threatened release
(a) is unable to determine the identity of the liable person or persons in a manner consistent with the need to take timely remedial action; or
(b) the person or persons determined by the department to be liable under 75-10-715(1) have been informed in writing of the department's determination and have been requested by the department to take appropriate remedial action but are unable or unwilling to take action in a timely manner; and
(c) the written notice to each person informs the person that if subsequently found liable pursuant to 75-10-715(1), the person may be required to reimburse the fund for the state's remedial action costs and may be subject to penalties pursuant to this part.
(4) Whenever the department is authorized to act pursuant to subsection (1)
or has reason to believe that a release that may
pose an imminent and substantial threat to the public health, safety, or welfare or the environment has occurred or is about
to occur, it may issue to any person liable under 75-10-715(1) cease and desist, remedial, or other orders as may be
necessary or appropriate to protect the public health, safety, or welfare or the environment.
(5) (a) A person who violates or fails or refuses to comply with an order issued under 75-10-707 or this section may, in an action brought to enforce the order, be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for each day in which a violation occurs or a failure or refusal to comply continues. In determining the amount of any penalty assessed, the court may take into account:
(i) the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the noncompliance;
(ii) with respect to the person liable under 75-10-715(1):
(A) the person's ability to pay;
(B) any prior history of violations;
(C) the degree of culpability; and
(D) the economic benefit or savings, if any, resulting from the noncompliance; and
(iii) any other matters as justice may require.
(b) Civil penalties collected under subsection (5)(a) must be deposited into the environmental quality protection fund established in 75-10-704.
(6) A court has jurisdiction to review an order issued under 75-10-707 or this section only in the following actions:
(a) an action under 75-10-715 to recover remedial action costs or penalties or for contribution;
(b) an action to enforce an order issued under 75-10-707 or this section;
(c) an action to recover a civil penalty for violation of or failure to comply with an order issued under 75-10-707 or this section; or
(d) an action by a person to whom an order has been issued to determine the validity of the order, only if the person has been in compliance and continues in compliance with the order pending a decision of the court.
(7) In considering objections raised in a judicial action regarding orders issued under this part, the court shall uphold and enforce an order issued by the department unless the objecting party can demonstrate, on the administrative record, that the department's decision to issue the order was arbitrary and capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.
(8) Instead of issuing a notification or an order under this section, the department may bring an action for legal or equitable relief in the district court of the county where the release or threatened release occurred or in the first judicial district as may be necessary to abate any imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health, safety, or welfare or the environment resulting from the release or threatened release.
(9) The department may take remedial action pursuant to subsection (1) at a site that is regulated under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, Public Law 96-510, if the department determines that remedial action is necessary to carry out the purposes of this part."
Section 2. Section 75-10-723, MCA, is amended to read:
"75-10-723. Agreements and administrative orders on consent to perform remedial action. (1) To expedite effective remedial actions and minimize litigation, the department, in its discretion and whenever practicable and in the public interest, may negotiate and enter into an agreement or an administrative order on consent with any person, including the owner or operator of the facility from which a release emanates, to perform a remedial action if the department determines that the action will be properly done by the person. The agreement must contain terms and conditions that the department in its discretion determines to be appropriate.
(2) Whenever the department enters into an
agreement administrative order on consent under this section for remedial
action or for assessment or payment of natural resource damages, the agreement must be filed in an appropriate district
court as a consent decree and that administrative order on consent must be available for public comment for at least 30
(3) A decision of the department to enter into or not enter into agreements or administrative orders on consent under this section is not subject to judicial review."
Section 3. Section 75-10-732, MCA, is amended to read:
"75-10-732. (Temporary) Eligibility. (1) A facility where there has been a release or threatened release of a hazardous or deleterious substance that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health, safety, or welfare or the environment may be eligible for voluntary cleanup procedures under this part, except for facilities that meet one of the following criteria at the time of application for a voluntary cleanup plan:
(a) a facility that is listed or proposed for listing on the national priorities list pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 9601, et seq.;
(b) a facility for which an order has been issued or consent decree has been entered into pursuant to this part;
(c) a facility that is the subject of an agency order or an action filed in district court by any state agency that addresses the release or threatened release of a hazardous or deleterious substance; or
(d) a facility where the release or threatened release of a hazardous or deleterious substance is regulated by the Montana Hazardous Waste and Underground Storage Tank Act and regulations under that act; or
(e) a facility that is the subject of pending action under this part because the facility has been issued a notice commencing a specified period of negotiations on an administrative order on consent.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (1)(b) through (1)(e), the department may agree to accept and may approve an application for a voluntary cleanup plan for a facility.
(3) The department may determine that a facility that is potentially eligible for voluntary cleanup exhibits complexities regarding protection of public health, safety, and welfare and the environment and that the complexities should be addressed under an administrative order on consent or consent decree pursuant to this part. This determination may be made only after consultation with any person desiring to conduct a voluntary cleanup at the facility.
(4) If an applicant
that who submits an application for a voluntary cleanup plan disagrees with the department's decision to
reject the filing of the application under subsection (1) or (3) , or disagrees with the department's decision to disapprove the
voluntary cleanup plan submitted pursuant to 75-10-736, the applicant may, within 30 days of receipt of the department's
written decision pursuant to 75-10-736, submit a written request for a hearing before the board of environmental review. In
reviewing a department decision to reject an application under subsection (1) or (3) or to disapprove a voluntary cleanup
plan submitted pursuant to 75-10-736, the board shall apply the standards of review specified in 2-4-704. The hearing must
be held within 2 months at the regular meeting of the board or at the time mutually agreed to by the board, the department,
and the applicant. The hearing and any appeals must be conducted in accordance with the contested case proceedings
pursuant to Title 2, chapter 4, parts 6 and 7. A hearing before the board may not be requested regarding a decision of the
department made pursuant to subsection (2). (Terminates January 1, 2001--sec. 27, Ch. 584, L. 1995.)"
Section 4. Section 75-10-736, MCA, is amended to read:
"75-10-736. (Temporary) Approval of voluntary cleanup plan -- time limits -- content of notice -- expiration of approval. (1) The department shall review for completeness, including adequacy and accuracy, an application for a voluntary cleanup plan and shall provide a written completeness notice to the applicant within 30 days after receipt of the application. The completeness notice must note all deficiencies identified in the information submitted.
(2) For a voluntary cleanup plan that is considered complete by the department pursuant to subsection (1), the department shall provide formal written notification that the voluntary cleanup plan has been approved or disapproved no more than 60 days after the department's determination that an application is complete, unless the applicant and the department agree to an extension of the review to a date certain. The review must be limited to a review of the materials submitted by the applicant, public comments, and documents or information readily available to the department. The department shall communicate with the applicant during the review period to ensure that the applicant has the opportunity to address the public comments.
(3) (a) If the department receives five applications for review of a voluntary cleanup plan in a calendar month, including applications deferred from prior months, the department may notify any additional applicants in that month that their plans must be reviewed in the order received. The 30-day period for department completeness review of deferred applications pursuant to subsection (1) must begin on the first day of the subsequent month that each plan is eligible for review.
(b) The department shall discontinue accepting voluntary cleanup applications when 15 applications are pending and are being reviewed by the department. The department shall establish a waiting list for applications and shall consider the applications in order of submittal.
(c) If the department has received multiple cleanup applications for a voluntary cleanup at the same facility, the department shall notify all of the applicants and offer them the opportunity to submit a joint application.
(4) Consistent with the provisions of 75-10-707, the department may access the facility during review of the application and implementation of the voluntary cleanup plan to confirm information provided by the applicant and verify that the cleanup is being conducted consistent with the approved plan.
(5) The department shall approve a voluntary cleanup plan if the department concludes that the plan meets the
requirements specified in 75-10-734 and will attain a degree of cleanup and control of hazardous or deleterious substances
that complies with the requirements of 75-10-721. Except for the period necessary for the operation and maintenance of the
approved remediation proposal, the department may not approve a voluntary remediation proposal that would take longer
24 60 months after department approval to complete.
(6) If a voluntary cleanup plan is not approved by the department, the department shall promptly provide the applicant with a written statement of the reasons for denial. The denial may be appealed to the board of environmental review in accordance with the provisions of 75-10-732(4).
(7) The approval of a voluntary cleanup plan by the department applies only to conditions at the facility that are known to the department at the time of department approval. If a voluntary remediation proposal is not initiated within 12 months and, except for the period necessary for the operation and maintenance of the approved remediation proposal, is not completed within 24 months after approval by the department, the department's approval lapses. However, the department may grant an extension of the time limit for completion of the voluntary cleanup plan.
(8) If reasonably unforeseeable conditions are discovered during implementation of a voluntary cleanup plan that substantially affect the risk to public health, safety, or welfare or the environment or substantially change the scope of the approved plan, the applicant shall promptly notify the department. The department may require the applicant to submit an amendment to the approved plan to address the unforeseen conditions or may determine that a voluntary cleanup plan is no longer appropriate pursuant to 75-10-732(3).
(9) Written notification by the department that a voluntary cleanup plan is not approved must state the basis for disapproval of the voluntary cleanup plan.
(10) (a) Failure of the applicant or the applicant's agents to materially comply with the voluntary cleanup plan approved by the department pursuant to this section renders the approval void.
(b) Submission of materially misleading information by the applicant or the applicant's agents in the application or during implementation of the voluntary cleanup plan renders the department approval void.
(11) Within 60 days after completion of the approved remediation proposal described in the voluntary cleanup plan approved by the department, the applicant shall provide to the department a certification from a qualified environmental professional that the plan has been fully implemented, including all documentation necessary to demonstrate the successful implementation of the plan, such as confirmation sampling, if necessary.
(12) Except as provided in 75-10-738(2)(b), the department may not require financial assurance under this part for voluntary cleanup plans approved under this section.
(13) If a person who would otherwise not be a liable person under 75-10-715(1) elects to undertake an approved voluntary cleanup plan, the person may not become a liable person under 75-10-715(1) by undertaking a voluntary cleanup if the person materially complies with the voluntary cleanup plan approved by the department pursuant to this section.
(14) Immunity from liability under this section does not apply to a release that is caused by conduct that is negligent or grossly negligent or that constitutes intentional misconduct. (Terminates January 1, 2001--sec. 27, Ch. 584, L. 1995.)"
NEW SECTION. Section 5. Effective date. [This act] is effective on passage and approval.