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Nuclear Waste Program

What are Orders, Penalties, Settlements, and Consent Decrees?

Orders are administrative enforcement documents issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) that describe violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Act, chapter 70.105 RCW, and/or the Dangerous Waste Regulations, chapter 173-303 and the actions a person* must take to come into compliance. Chapter 70.105 RCW authorizes Ecology to issue administrative enforcement orders requiring compliance, whenever it determines that a person has violated any provision of Chapter 70.105 RCW or Chapter 173-303 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). See RCW 70.105.095; WAC 173-303-950. The person subject to Ecology’s enforcement order can appeal the order to the Pollution Control Hearing Board (PCHB).

In addition to orders, Ecology may also issue monetary penalties as part of its enforcement actions for violations of any provision of Chapter 70.105 RCW or Chapter 173-303 WAC. See RCW 70.105.080; WAC 173-303-950. Like enforcement orders, a person receiving an Ecology issued penalty can appeal it to the PCHB. Ecology penalties are a monetary incentive to change behavior to ensure compliance with state law. These penalties are aimed at correcting environmental violations and deterring future violations. Ecology considers several factors when deciding the appropriate amount of the penalty.

The nature of the violation:
  • Severity of the violation (public health and/or environmental effect)
  • Magnitude of the violation (amount and type of pollution)
  • Whether the violation was due to negligence, recklessness, or was intentional
  • Precautions taken to prevent the violation
The prior behavior of the violator:
  • Record of similar violations or a pattern of violations
  • Multiple notices of the violation and applicable corrective actions
Actions taken by the violator to correct the problem:
  • Degree of cooperation in working toward compliance
  • Timeliness and appropriateness of corrective actions taken
  • Compensation paid or agreed to for damages to public resources
Ecology has the discretion to settle an enforcement action (order and/or penalty) with the person subject to that enforcement. A settlement is a contract between Ecology and the person subject to enforcement. A settlement can reduce the amount of time and money spent by Ecology staff, the Attorney General’s Office on appeals, and the person subject to the enforcement. Some typical elements of a settlement include: a statement that the person would not be able to seek administrative or judicial review of the facts giving rise to violations cited by Ecology or the amount being offered to settle the violation, an agreement by the person to waive the right to appeal the settlement, and a list of requirements and often a schedule with which Ecology asks someone to comply.

Consent Decrees
Consent Decrees are judicial orders, which contain a settlement agreement that is subject to continued judicial policing. In instances where Ecology utilizes consent decrees, Ecology and a person will agree on a proposed settlement, and then petition a court to enter the court decree.

Hanford Settlements and Decrees
Ecology has entered into settlements and decrees for the Hanford site. Some of these settlements are listed below.

Orders & Penalties

Washington State amends order to get stabilization plan for PUREX Tunnel 2 - 09/15/2017


Penalty for failure to identify PUREX powder - 08/31/2017


T Plant - 06/29/2017


Washington state takes legal action against U.S. government after Hanford tunnel collapses - 05/10/2017

Central Waste Complex - 01/24/2014

Penalty for failure to meet M-32 tank waste milestone - 06/13/2000

Tank Waste Consent Decree

Amended Tank Waste Consent Decree
- 03/12/2016

Amend 2010 Hanford cleanup agreement - 10/03/2014

Department of Energy’s proposal to amend tank waste consent decree - 04/18/2014

Original Tank Waste Settlement Agreement - 10/25/2010

AY-102 Settlement Agreement

Double-shell tank AY-102 - 09/29/2014

AY-102 - 03/21/2014