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  • CIVIL COMPLAINT is the initial pleading that is filed with the clerk of the state court in the county in which state court action is initiated. The complaint includes a description of the facts that establish that a violation has occurred, a claim that the court has jurisdiction to decide the case, and a prayer for relief that describes the specific remedies being sought. In a complaint, the Department is called the 'plaintiff' and the entity sued is called the 'defendant.'
  • CIVIL ENFORCEMENT brings parties responsible for violating environmental laws into compliance with those laws, and ranges from issuing a non-compliance letter to filing a legal action in state court. It does not involve criminal sanctions, but is used to obtain corrective actions (such as remediating a contaminated site) and, in many cases, civil penalties.
  • COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE means helping regulated entities meet requirements of environmental laws and regulations. DEP offers a variety of compliance assistance resources such as onsite help by contracted professionals, workshops and community meetings along with compliance guides, fact sheets and training materials that are generally available on the DEP website.
  • NONCOMPLIANCE LETTERS are used to inform a responsible party that DEP has observed possible violations of law in cases involving relatively minor violations, where DEP does not intend to pursue a consent order or penalties if the violation is corrected.
  • WARNING LETTERS are frequently DEP’s initial notification to a responsible party that DEP has observed possible violations of law. Warning letters are normally issued in cases where DEP intends to pursue a consent order, at a minimum, and/or penalties.
  • NOTICES OF VIOLATION (NOV) are administrative complaints; in other words, they initiate a formal administrative proceeding against a 'respondent' to address violations of environmental laws. A NOV issued pursuant to ELRA includes a listing of the violations at the site or facility, a penalty amount calculated for each violation, and a description of the procedure for either contesting the NOV or negotiating a settlement to return the site or facility to compliance in a timely manner. Non-ELRA NOVs do not include penalties and may only seek corrective actions and damages.
  • CONSENT ORDERS are used to formally settle enforcement actions and constitute a final order pursuant to section 120.52(7), Florida Statutes. A consent order binds a party who has violated Florida’s environmental laws ('respondent') to perform specific actions within identified timeframes to resolve the violation, sets out DEP’s findings that the respondent violated the law and specifies the terms of settlement. A consent order may be agreed on at any point in the administrative process, including before or after DEP issues a Notice of Violation. Consent orders are authorized in section 120.57(4), Florida Statutes and are the administrative version of a judicial consent decree or consent final judgment. DEP uses three types of consent orders: short form, model and long form.
    • Short form – A short form consent order is used exclusively to settle cases where the only issue left to resolve is the payment of money, whether for penalties, damages, cost reimbursement or a combination of these. DEP developed a template short form consent order for simplicity and consistency, which is used by enforcement staff only in this circumstance. If corrective actions are required, DEP must use either a model or long form consent order.
    • Model – Model consent orders are pre-approved templates tailored to a range of specific circumstances encountered in DEP regulatory programs. Districts may issue model consent orders that adhere to the template without review by DEP’s Office of General Counse. They are also used by district staff as a template when drafting long form consent orders (described below).
    • Long form – Long form consent orders are all consent orders that are not models or short forms. They are developed using the model consent order as a template or starting point and modified to address the particulars of violation given case. DEP’s Office of General Counsel reviews all long form consent orders and may become directly involved in settlement negotiations if warranted by the complexity of the legal issues.
  • FINAL ORDERS – are issued by either DEP or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with the Division of Administrative Hearings. DEP issues final orders in non-ELRA NOV cases, and in ELRA NOV cases where the respondent has not challenged the NOV. An ALJ issues final orders in ELRA NOV cases. Final Orders are the administrative version of a judicial final judgment. They bind a party who has violated Florida’s environmental laws ('respondent') to perform specific actions within identified timeframes to resolve the violation and in many cases to pay an administrative penalty. For a listing of Final Orders issued by DEP see http://www.dep.state.fl.us/legal/Final_Orders/finalorders.htm. Final Orders issued by DOAH (in cases involving ELRA NOVs) can be obtained from http://www.doah.state.fl.us/internet/search/.


Last updated: January 24, 2011

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