Notice Letter in the United States
Notice Letter in Environmental Law
One of two types of letters in environmental law. The first is one sent by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to inform a company, city, or other party that it is a potentially responsible party for cleanup of a hazardous waste site. The second is a letter sent to the EPA to notify it that a citizen suit will be brought if the EPA does not take some specified action within sixty days.
Notification to Potentially Responsible Parties
In cases involving the cleanup of hazardous waste facilities, the EPA has numerous responsibilities after a site has been designated dangerous enough to require federal involvement. If the situation is immediately hazardous, the EPA may do the work itself or part of it so that it does not pose an immediate threat. See Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; National Priority List.
However, the federal government does not finance remediation at hazardous waste sites unless no potentially responsible party can be found. Whether it has already done some work or is merely contemplating it, the EPA must begin a search as early as feasible to locate parties to pay for the investigation and work at the site.
The notice letter is sent to companies, persons, organizations, and cities in short, anyone with a connection to the disposal of hazardous substances at the facility. Also, the statute names the current owner or operator of the site as a potentially responsible party [see potentially responsible parties]. Sending the notice letter is a major step in a lengthy process to force the parties connected with the site to bear the cost of evaluating, formulating a remedy, and implementing the remedy selected. See innocent purchaser.
The person notified may submit information to the EPA to demonstrate that he or she had no connection with the property or the waste disposal activities. However, the notice letter follows an intense search for potentially responsible parties. Records of waste disposal facilities and other credible information form the basis of the notification. So, when notice letters are sent by the EPA, the preliminary work has been done, and it will be difficult for the person to escape the process. Notice letters are ordinarily issued at least sixty days before a lawsuit is filed. People or companies receiving a notice letter are invited to attend a meeting the EPA will hold to explain what it intends to do. The meeting is open to all of the potentially responsible parties.
The other type of notice letter is sent to the Environmental Protection Agency, the state in which the violation occurred, and the party alleged to be the violator. It informs them that an interested party intends to file a lawsuit.
This notice letter must be sent sixty days before a suit is actually filed, with a few exceptions. It may relate to a particular enforcement action the interested party wants the agency to undertake, or it may demand that the agency promulgate regulations. According to the citizen suit provisions of environmental laws, the action the party wants must be nondiscretionary for the agency. Some statutes, such as the Clean Air Act, specify which of the EPA’s duties are nondiscretionary.
For example, if the agency was given until 15 November 1995 to develop regulations and that date has come and gone without regulations being promulgated, a citizen may sue the agency to force action. On the other hand, if an agency has not prosecuted a violator for a violation of the Clean Air Act, the agency cannot be forced to do so because the EPA has discretion to choose its enforcement actions. In the first instance, the agency will be a party to the lawsuit if it does not act within the sixty days. In the second, the agency may still choose not to prosecute the violator because of other priorities. The citizen will be unlikely to win a lawsuit against the agency itself but can file a lawsuit against the violator after sixty days.
Based on “Environment and the Law. A Dictionary”.