Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Maryland, Clean Water Act, penalties, fees, enforcement, mandatory minimum penalties


Maryland has a long-held reputation as a regional and national leader in environmental protection. But in some areas, especially enforcement, that reputation warrants scrutiny. For example, Maryland charges less than Pennsylvania and Virginia for some pollutant discharge permits, and the state does not assess permit fees for municipalities despite the resources required to administer those permits. The penalties for violating the Clean Water Act have remained chronically below the level allowed under federal law. Maryland law does not require MDE to penalize polluters for the full amount of the economic gain they achieved by flouting the law, unlike laws in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Together, these shortcomings may effectively dilute the power of deterrent effect of environmental laws across the state.

This briefing paper identifies four key steps that Maryland should take to affirm its reputation as a regional and national leader in protecting the environment. The General Assembly should (1) increase permit fees to accurately reflect the cost of developing permits, monitoring and regulating facilities with permits, and managing pollutant discharges; (2) ensure that the statutory penalty maximum for a violation of the Clean Water Act keeps pace with inflation and the federal maximum; (3) restore the full deterrent effect of a penalty by adopting a statutory mandate to recover any economic benefit from noncompliance that a violator receives; and (4) establish a clear, mandatory minimum penalty requirement for violations of the environmental laws that protect the land, water, air, and other natural resources of Maryland.

Publication Citation

Center for Progressive Reform Briefing Paper no. 1110, October 2011.


Environmental Law