Revisions to NOAA's Policy for the Assessment of Civil Administrative Penalties and Permit Sanctions

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 85 (Thursday, May 2, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 85 (Thursday, May 2, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 18808-18809]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-08895]
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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
[Docket No. 190325274-9274-01]
RIN 0648-XG926
Revisions to NOAA's Policy for the Assessment of Civil
Administrative Penalties and Permit Sanctions
AGENCY: Office of General Counsel (OGC), National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.
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SUMMARY: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
announces the availability of draft revisions to NOAA's Policy for the
Assessment of Civil Administrative Penalties and Permit Sanctions
(Penalty Policy) for public review and comment. The revisions to the
policy reflect new legislation enacted and regulations promulgated, the
most recent adjustments to the maximum civil monetary penalties
authorized under statutes administered and enforced by NOAA, pursuant
to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, and
clarifications to improve enforcement consistency nationally, increase
predictability in enforcement, improve transparency in enforcement, and
more effectively protect natural resources.
DATES: The draft revisions to the Penalty Policy will remain available
for public review until June 3, 2019. To ensure that comments will be
considered, NOAA must receive written comments by June 3, 2019.
ADDRESSES: Interested persons may submit comments by any of the
following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit electronic public comments,
identified by NOAA-HQ-2019-0029, at http://www.regulations.gov. The
docket established for this rule-making can be found at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-HQ-2019-0029. Click the
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or
attach your comments.
     Mail: Enforcement Section, Office of the General Counsel,
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1315 East-West
Highway, SSMC-3 15424, Silver Spring, MD 20910, Attn: Meggan Engelke-
Ros.
    The draft revisions to the Penalty Policy are available
electronically at the following website: https:/www.gc.noaa.gov/
enforce-office3.html. Commenters may also request a hard copy of the
draft revisions to the Penalty Policy by sending a self-addressed
envelope (size 8.5 x 11 inches) to the street address provided above.
Comments submitted in response to this notice are a matter of public
record. Before including an address, phone number, email address, or
other personal identifying information in a comment, please be aware
that comments--including any personal identifying information--can and
will be made publicly available. While a request can be made to
withhold personal identifying information from public review, NOAA
cannot ensure that it will be able to do so.
    Comments submitted electronically will generally be posted to
http://www.regulations.gov without change. For posted comments, all
personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.),
confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information
submitted voluntarily by the sender is publicly accessible. NOAA will
accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you
wish to remain anonymous).
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Meggan Engelke-Ros at 301-427-2202.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On April 14, 2011, NOAA published its new
NOAA Policy for the Assessment of Civil Administrative Penalties and
Permit Sanctions (76 FR 20959). On July 1, 2014, NOAA issued a revised
Penalty Policy. As explained more fully in the text of the revised
Penalty Policy, the purpose of this Policy is to continue to ensure
that: (1) Civil administrative penalties and permit sanctions are
assessed in accordance with the laws that NOAA enforces in a fair and
consistent manner; (2) penalties and permit sanctions are appropriate
for the gravity of the violation; (3) penalties and
[[Page 18809]]
permit sanctions are sufficient to deter both individual violators and
the regulated community as a whole from committing violations; (4)
economic incentives for noncompliance are eliminated; and (5)
compliance is expeditiously achieved and maintained to protect natural
resources.
    This revised Penalty Policy also reflects legislation passed and
regulations promulgated since issuance of the 2014 Policy, in
particular:
     The Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing
Enforcement Act of 2015, Public Law 114-81, which implemented the
Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate
Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and amended the
enforcement provisions of a number of statutes administered by NOAA;
and
     The most recent adjustments to the maximum civil monetary
penalties authorized under statutes administered and enforced by NOAA,
pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of
1990 (see 84 FR 2445, February 7, 2019).
    Under this revised Policy, NOAA will continue to promote
consistency at a national level, provide greater predictability for the
regulated community and the public, maintain transparency in
enforcement, and more effectively protect natural resources. The major
changes to the existing Penalty Policy made by this revision include:
    (1) Additional clarity on what would be considered ``such other
matters as justice may require'' under the adjustment factors;
    (2) Clarification on our policy for when and how the newly adjusted
statutory penalty maximums will apply;
    (3) Clarification of the policy on application of prior offenses to
penalty assessments;
    (4) Updates to the penalty schedules to reflect new statutory
authorities or regulations;
    (5) Adjustments to the penalty matrixes to reflect the most recent
adjustments to the maximum civil monetary penalties.
    Some of the statutory adjustments to the maximum civil monetary
penalties were significant and required a rebalancing of our
distribution of the penalty ranges in the penalty matrixes. In making
these adjustments, there were two primary considerations that affected
the revised penalty matrixes. First, for each matrix that was adjusted,
a percentage increase was applied across the entire matrix and the
percentage increase was, in all cases, less than the percentage
increase to the statutory maximum (numbers were rounded). This was done
so as to take a conservative approach to the statutory penalty
increases, which reflected a ``catch-up'' application of adjustments
for inflation causing some significant penalty increases. Second, the
matrixes were adjusted to ensure each individual matrix utilized the
full penalty range in a balanced manner so that the penalty ranges
increased gradually as the gravity level of the violations increased,
rather than having an exponential increase in penalty ranges from one
gravity level to the next.
    The revised Penalty Policy will supersede the previous Penalty
Policy regarding the assessment of penalties or permit sanctions, and
previous penalty and permit sanction schedules issued by the NOAA
Office of General Counsel. This Penalty Policy provides guidance for
the NOAA General Counsel's Office in assessing penalties but is not
intended to create a right or benefit, substantive or procedural,
enforceable at law or in equity, in any person or company. NOAA retains
discretion to assess the full range of penalties authorized by statute
in any particular case.
    The full revised Penalty Policy, along with examples, matrixes, and
schedules can be found at https://www.gc.noaa.gov/enforce-office3.html.
More information about the NOAA General Counsel Enforcement Section can
be found at https://www.gc.noaa.gov/enforce-office.html.
    Dated: April 25, 2019.
Jeff Dillen,
Deputy General Counsel, National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration.
[FR Doc. 2019-08895 Filed 5-1-19; 8:45 am]
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