Administrative Order on Consent Details

Regulatory authorities, like the Environmental Protection Agency, will issue an AOC to an entity, business, or individual when that entity has violated a regulatory code. An AOC is a voluntary agreement between the regulatory body and the violator. A court can enforce it if the violator does not satisfactorily fulfill the terms of the AOC. AOCs may cover a range of infringements from relatively minor issues, such as the clearing away of building materials, to the very serious, such as the treatment of toxic waste released into the environment.

An AOC will give details about the infringement and what the entity needs to do to remedy the damage it has caused. Interested parties may make public comments about the procedure that the violator has to follow. This has the advantage of making the procedure open and democratic but can lengthen the process if, for example, a business complains that the AOC is too stringent. Generally, both the regulator and the violator want to remedy the situation as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Real World Example of Administrative Order on Consent

In May 2020, the State of California Environmental Protection Agency entered into an amended AOC for Remedial Action with the United States Department of Energy concerning land cleanup at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Ventura County. Operations at this site started in 1947, and various companies and government agencies used the facilities to test rocket engines, nuclear reactors, and research liquid metals. Eventually, Boeing became the main owner and operator. In 1947, few people lived near the site, but, as time passed, the population of California grew and residential areas opened near the laboratory area.

Research and development operations at the site stopped in 2006, but there were several accidents involving radioactive materials during its sixty years in use. In 1989, an investigation by the Department of Energy found significant levels of radioactive and chemical contamination on the 2,668-acre property. In 1994, two scientists were trying to burn chemicals in open pits. This method of disposal was and still is illegal. The chemicals exploded, and the two scientists were killed. This led to a grand jury investigation and a raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 2005, wildfires caused considerable damage to the facility.

A cleanup operation began in 1989 but, in May 2007, a Federal court decided that the cleaning that was going on did not reach the required standard. In August of the same year, the Department of Toxic Substances Control issued a Consent Order to Boeing, the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to guide the cleanup. Local residents have filed legal suits that allege that contaminants from the site have caused serious medical conditions, including cancer. Legal battles over how to clean the site continue to this day.