In 2013, facilities considered in significant compliance with Florida Department of Environmental Protection rules and regulations rose to 96 percent, a two percent increase from 2012.This is based on tens of thousands of inspections and monitoring samples statewide.The remaining four percent represents those facilities that remain significantly out of compliance, which has historically been between 10 and 14 percent.
Record compliance numbers are a result of the Department’s significant education and outreach efforts over the last two years. In 2013 alone, Department staff participated in 7,494 education and outreach events, reaching more than 86,700 people.
The Department and the regulated community are making significant progress in achieving higher compliance rates. By working with the citizens and businesses that the Department regulates, noncompliance and environmental harm is avoided. As a result, the number of legal actions filed and monetary fines levied by the Department in 2013 has dropped to a record low.
Here is what regulated industry is saying about DEP’s regulatory staff:
“Your staff has worked hard, and continues to do so, to help our facility personnel understand areas of non-compliance by offering suggestions to improve our process and bring items of concern up to code. The change in mindset, from one of enforcement, to one of assistance and partnering with the organization has greatly improved relations while providing greater protection to the environment.” –Pedro J. Santiago, Lt.Col, FLANG, Environmental Manager for the 125th Fighter Wing of the Florida Air National Guard. Full letter available here.
“This proactive approach to understanding compliance was refreshing and is thought of as a partnership between the FDEP and Embarer. Often, companies are reactive when faced with citations for non-compliance that could have been avoided by asking for guidance from the FDEP to determine possible gaps in processes or procedures.” –Doug Dennis, Regional Environmental Health and Safety Director for Embraer Executive Aircraft, Inc. in Melbourne. Full letter available here.
“We noticed the approach is weighted toward helping us to be successful in our efforts of protecting the environment. We are confident this attitude of helping us will have a positive, long lasting impact on our great State.” –James Beaudry, Fixed Operations Manager for Gordon Chevrolet in Orange Park. Full letter available here.
This emphasis on outreach and education does not mean that the Department is unwilling to initiate a formal enforcement action when someone ignores Florida’s laws and the Department’s efforts. In fact, the Department engaged in formal enforcement action 225 times in 2013.
Furthermore, formal enforcement does not involve only monetary penalties. Actually, the Department encourages non-compliant facilities to resolve their penalties through pollution prevention projects or environmental projects. These projects must be valued at 150 percent of what the monetary fine would be. These projects result in a superior environmental value for the state—the penalty is satisfied and environmental benefits are provided. An example of this is the project Phoenix Construction Services, Inc. completed last year to clean up the Coyote Disposal Facility in Panama City, which was performed in lieu of a significant monetary penalty.
The Department is in the business of environmental protection and compliance. The Department’s compliance numbers are at an all-time high and Florida’s environment benefits as a result. In fact, Florida’s air is cleaner than it has been in our lifetime. The State’s water quality standards are considered the most comprehensive in the nation. DEP’s proactive approach to increasing compliance has delivered the following improvements.
Year Significant Compliance
Significant compliance is defined as facilities in full compliance and facilities that have minor violations that present no environmental harm, such as tardy or missing paperwork. The Department regulates roughly 75,000 facilities statewide.