Residents of the Commonwealth are urged not to litter with the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality tasked to finally implement the decades-old anti-littering law.
BECQ administrator Frank Rabauliman said the CNMI’s current anti-littering law was drafted in 1996 and it appoints officers and different agencies to enforce anti-littering. The responsibility to give citations to all those who litter were also stated in the first draft of the law. It did not matter if it was an accident or not, any type of littering was considered as an offense. The law did not just establish officers, but it also implemented training for the appointed officers.
Officers were appointed from the appointed agencies. Agencies included in the first draft were the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Public Safety, Department of Public Works, Department of land and Natural Resource, and the Office of the Mayor of Saipan.
Since 1996, when the first law was implemented, until 2008 the appointed agencies of the anti-littering law saw that the law was not being enforced. There were only a few citations and more appointed officers.
The officers did not implement the first draft because the fine for littering was $200 and it was a fixed amount. For some people it was a jail sentence and unfair if the offense was not as great. This led to a revision in 2009, according to Rabauliman.
The revision included more appointed agencies including the Division of Coastal Resource Management (precursor of BECQ) and Department of Public Lands.
The revision also included that a judge is now able to use his or her discretion regarding how much the fine will be for based on the person’s offense. Appointed officers are still responsible of giving out citations, but they are no longer in charge of how much the fine will be.
In the revised law, the fine ranges from $25 to $5,000. The judge will base the fine off of how many times the person has been given a citation regarding littering, and how great the offense is.
The revised law (Public Law 19-53) also states that half of the collections from the citations will go back to the account of the BECQ to be able to continue the anti-littering programs. The other half will go to the general funds of the CNMI. The first draft stated that all the collections would go to the general fund.
According to Rabauliman, it took a long time before the revision was implemented. The revised anti-littering law was finally implemented just last year.