This essay will set forth the relevant portions of the MPRSA as it applies to ocean disposals of dredged materials and present a case from California where the MPRSA mandated civil penalties for a commercial dredging company.
As an initial matter, the primary purpose of the MPRSA is to prevent the disposal of any materials in the ocean, within American jurisdiction, unless that disposal has previously been authorized by a permit granted by the United States Army Corps of engineers with the subsequent approval of the EPA (MPRSA section 101(a); 33 United States Code section 1411). A permit, however, is not easy to obtain; more importantly, as stated by the governing statute and administrative regulations, violating the terms of an otherwise legal permit is also unlawful and will result in civil liability. As a general rule, a permit may be obtained only when the ocean dumping does not “unreasonable degrade or endanger human health, welfare or amenities, or the marine environment, ecological systems or economic potentialities” (MPRSA section 102; United States Code section 1412). The Code of Federal Regulations sets forth guidelines for determining whether a particular permit application ought to be approved or denied; and, while both the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA are involved in assessing permit applications, the EPA is the superior administrative agency and its decisions override all other agencies (40 Code of Federal Regulations sections 225.1 & 225.2(c)). In short, the disposal of dredged materials in the ocean is prohibited, a permit application does exist, and there are very strict requirements for a permit to be approved.
The MPRSA is enforced through section 105(a), which authorizes the EPA to assess a civil penalty not exceeding $50,000 per day for any violation. These violations may ...
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