Last month we asked DEQ staff: how do you ensure facilities follow environmental laws? We learned a lot about how complaints get processed, when DEQ goes out to inspect facilities and how that can lead to enforcement and fines. This month, we’re talking about that enforcement process.

Lauren and Dylan talk with DEQ enforcement staff, EPA enforcement staff and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center to learn about DEQ enforcement actions. We discuss how DEQ figures out what amount to fine violators, how DEQ and EPA enforcement work together and the ways NEDC advocates for environmental issues through litigation.

The voices in the episode are:

  • Kieran O’Donnell, DEQ office of compliance and enforcement manager.
  • Becka Puskas, DEQ environmental law specialist.
  • Patrick Johnson, EPA Region X office of regional counsel.
  • Jonah Sandford, Northwest Environmental Defense Center attorney.

Listen to the podcast on: SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.


  • Introduction
  • Why DEQ has an enforcement office [3:10]
  • What happens to a facility that violates [9:50]
    • Corrective actions (aka. everything that isn’t a fine)
    • Shutting facilities down
    • Appeals process
    • Where does penalty money go?
    • Supplemental environmental projects – putting money back into communities
  • EPA enforcement process [19:55]
    • How it works
    • EPA performing inspections in Oregon
    • What EPA can do that DEQ can’t
  • Northwest Environmental Defense Center role in enforcement [26:20]
    • Training and mentorship for students who fuel advocacy work
    • Winning on-the-ground projects to improve water or air quality
    • Getting involved in DEQ enforcement
    • What NEDC would like DEQ to improve about its process
  • Role of enforcement to build trust in government [35:00]
  • Wrap-up [36:10]

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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