January 31, 2011
Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee
Michael Faden, Senior Legislative Attorney
Bill 60-10, Erosion and Sediment Control- Violations
Bill 60-10, Erosion and Sediment Control - Violations, sponsored by Councilmember
EIrich and Council President Ervin, ,was introduced on December 14, 2010. Bill 60-10 would
increase the maximum civil penalty for a violation of the County sediment control law from
$500 (initial offense) or $750 (later offense) to $1000.
A public hearing was held on January 18. All testimony supported the Bill. See
testimony, ©5-16. After the hearing, Executive staff informed Council staff that the County
Executive supports this Bill.
Currently, under the County's system of Class A, B, and C
violations, contained in County Code § 1-19, the maximum penalty for a Class A civil violation is
$750 for each offense. The maximum criminal penalty is $1000 per offense. Almost all County
Code violations are treated as civil violations, although the enforcing agency may opt for either
approach unless the underlying law limits the violation to a civil violation. The $1000 maximum
penalty derives from the state's general home rule powers law, the Express Powers Act
(Maryland Code, Article 25A §5(A)), which limits the penalty for violation of a County law to
$1000 (with a few exceptions not relevant here).
As the attached testimony on ©5-16 and news article on © 17-18 indicates, environmental
activists view the current penalties for violations of sediment control laws as too lenient in view
of the watershed damages caused by loose construction practices. They urged that the maximum
penalty for these violations be increased to the highest allowable County level, as this Bill does.
However, after this Bill was introduced, Council staff further checked state laws and
discovered that the state sediment control and stormwater management laws both authorize the
County to bring a civil action against a violator and seek the imposition of a civil penalty up to
$10,000 for each violation. See Maryland Code, Environment Article, §§4-116(c) and 4-215(c).
Council staff is unsure whether the County has ever used either provision, and if not why not.