"Fair Warning" Bill Moves

August 2, 1996

"Fair Warning" Bill Moves

The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved legislation that would create an affirmative defense against fines levied by federal regulatory agencies, LEGI-SLATE News Service reported.

Members approved the measure, offered as an amendment in the nature of a substitute by House Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chairman George Gekas, R-Pa., on a 16-5 vote.

As amended, the legislation would prohibit agencies from imposing fines or penalties if government officials failed to give "fair warning" of the conduct that federal rules prohibit or require. The bill's "fair warning" standard would depend on the defendant's ability to identify, "with ascertainable certainty," the rules of conformity.

At Thursday's markup, Democrats continued their strategy of trying to chip away at the bill through amendments aimed at creating exemptions for federal health and safety regulations, although all were voted down.

Responding to the committee passage of the legislation Thursday, the Natural Resources Defense Council issued a statement warning that the bill would immunize polluters against environmental enforcement.

NRDC senior attorney David Hawkins said the bill would permit polluters to dump hazardous wastes illegally for years without fear of being fined or penalized for unlawful behavior as long as a state official sanctioned the dumping.

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