CalRecycle, in partnership with local enforcement agencies (LEA), regulates the operation of solid waste handling, processing, and disposal activities to protect the public health and safety and the environment as well as ensure a level playing field for solid waste businesses.
The LEAs and CalRecycle collaboratively developed a "compliance first" enforcement approach that emphasizes education and cooperation between the LEA and operators to deter and prevent violations, except in situations where statute requires immediate enforcement.
CalRecycle’s solid waste enforcement activities include:
- Inspecting facilities to ensure state standards and permits.
- Enforcing state standards and permit conditions in addition to, or in lieu of, the LEA.
- Taking appropriate enforcement action if the LEA fails to do so.
- Certifying and evaluating LEAs and their enforcement plans.
- Providing inspections and oversight of LEAs to ensure that State programs are effectively implemented.
Local Enforcement Agency Partnership
Direct enforcement authority for solid waste facilities resides with local enforcement agencies (LEA). Local governing bodies designate LEAs—however, there are a small number of counties and cities that did not designate a local agency and CalRecycle acts as the enforcement agency in those cases.
CalRecycle certifies LEAs to ensure that the facilities/operations within their jurisdiction operate according to state minimum standards and permit conditions. The evaluation process is a tool to increase the overall performance and success of the LEA. CalRecycle evaluates the LEAs at least every three years to ensure that they are fulfilling their duties. Evaluation staff is required to determine one of six statutory findings regarding the LEA's performance.
Although each LEA is responsible for its jurisdiction, CalRecycle provides training, guidance and oversight to ensure that LEAs consistently and equitably enforce state laws to ensure that facilities are operating effectively. The Compliance Targeting Strategy developed collaboratively in 2007 provides CalRecycle staff direction on how best to focus resources when there is a need to provide support to LEAs in carrying out their duties.
Frequent, unannounced inspections of facilities and operations (active and closed landfills, transfer processing, material recovery, compost, anaerobic digestion, construction and demolition, and transformation) allow early detection of problems that could lead to noncompliance. The LEA or CalRecycle inspector reviews the site and records for compliance with applicable state minimum standards and permit conditions and electronically submits an inspection report to the operator and the statewide database or Solid Waste Information System (SWIS). If the facility is noncompliant, the inspection report details the findings and the violation(s). LEAs and CalRecycle provide technical assistance to the operator and allow a reasonable amount of time to correct the violation.
CalRecycle also conducts oversight inspections to ensure consistent statewide enforcement of statutes and regulations as well as to evaluate LEA performance. The three types of oversight inspections are: eighteen-month inspections of landfills, pre-permit inspections of all facility types for new, revised, or modified permits, and discretionary/focused inspections. The discretionary and focused inspections are generally conducted in response to known public health or safety threats, complaints, or for facilities (other than landfills) with chronic enforcement issues.
Enforcement Action and Options
Each LEA is required to describe its progressive enforcement process in their CalRecycle approved Enforcement Program Plan (EPP). Generally, ongoing violations lead to informal enforcement actions including Notices of Violation and compliance schedules that are intended to bring a facility into compliance with applicable regulatory and statutory requirements. LEAs utilize enforcement orders and penalties when the cooperative efforts are not successful and facilities do not correct violations in a reasonable amount of time.
- Enforcement Orders: The LEA may issue a Compliance Order with Milestones, a Corrective Action Order, and/ or a Cease and Desist Order for violations of state minimum standards and permit requirements. If an operator fails to comply with the order, the LEA may seek remedies, including administrative civil penalties not to exceed $5,000 for each day of violation, petitioning the Superior Court to enjoin the violation or impose civil penalties not to exceed $10,000 for each day of violation, or suspending or revoking the permit. The CalRecycle website lists active enforcement orders from the SWIS database. The list includes Cease and Desist Orders, Notices and Orders, Notices of Violations (Financial Assurances), Stipulated Agreements, and Stipulated Notices and Orders.
- Inventory: CalRecycle publishes the Inventory of Solid Waste Facilities That Violate State Minimum Standards for facilities that repeatedly violate at least one state minimum standard for two consecutive months. CalRecycle issues a Notice of Intent (NOI) advising the operator of CalRecycle’s intent to list the facility on the Inventory if the violations are not corrected within 90 days. CalRecycle works closely with the LEA to develop a strategy to bring facilities into full compliance.
Annual Enforcement Reports
The CalRecycle Enforcement Report summarizes enforcement activity data for the calendar year and charts trends over a five-year period for inspections, oversight inspections, violations by facility type, enforcement actions, and LEA evaluation results.
Regional and State Agency Partnership
In addition to CalRecycle, the State Water Resources Control Board and nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the Air Resources Board and 35 Regional Air Districts, and Department of Toxic Substances Control have regulatory authority over specific aspects of solid waste handling and disposal. CalRecycle regulations do not duplicate or conflict with other agency requirements regarding the protection of water and air quality or hazardous waste. These regional and state environmental agencies are required to notify each other when they observe violations or issue enforcement orders that may also constitute violations of requirements under other the authority of other agencies.