Maryland Senate to Consider Possible Five-Year Statute of Limitations on Environmental Administrative Enforcement Actions

With the approval by the House of Delegates of House Bill 509, the Maryland General Assembly is moving closer to establishing a five-year statute of limitations for administrative actions brought by the Maryland Department of the Environment (“MDE”).  If the measure is also passed by the Senate, MDE will be required to bring an action seeking an administrative penalty for any violation of an environmental law, rule, regulation or permit within five years after the MDE knew or reasonably should have known of the violation.

Curiously, MDE’s administrative actions have never been subject to an express statute of limitations, which has left the regulated community vulnerable to over-reaching claims.  The five-year limitations period would be consistent with most federal environmental statues which provide for a five-year limitations period, such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.  In comparison, current state law requires that any civil or criminal action brought by MDE in court (which differs from an administrative proceeding) is subject to a three-year statute of limitations. 

House Bill 509, which has received bipartisan support, was sponsored by Delegates Herbert McMillan (R), Pamela Beidle (D), Marc Fisher (R), Barbara Frush (D), Anthony O’Donnell (R) and Dana Stein (D).  On March 5, after receiving a favorable report from the House Committee on Environmental and Transportation, the bill was passed by the House of Delegates.  The legislation is presently before the Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs, which has scheduled a hearing on the bill for March 24 at 1:00 PM.  If the bill becomes law, it will become effective on October 1, 2015.

For more information about HB 509, contact a member of the Environmental Practice, including Marian Hwang.

Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. The author has provided the links referenced above for information purposes only and by doing so, does not adopt or incorporate the contents.