UPDATE: The United States Environmental Protection Agency has selected August 31, 2020, as the termination date for the temporary enforcement discretion policy, which retroactively began on March 13, 2020, applying to EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during COVID-19 pandemic. Read the Addendum on Termination.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic the EPA has made temporary policy changes to allow for flexibility.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a temporary enforcement discretion policy, retroactively beginning on March 13, 2020, applying to EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the current travel and social distancing restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, there may be constraints on the ability to carry out certain activities required by the federal environmental permits, regulations, and statutes.
While this means flexibility in issuing enforcement actions, regulated entities are still expected to make every effort to comply with their environmental compliance obligations, and perform routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification. Facilities must continue to be managed and operated in a manner that is safe and protects the public and the environment.
If any noncompliance is caused by COVID-19, facilities with environmental compliance obligations should:
- Act responsibly in order to minimize the effects and duration of noncompliance;
- Identify the specific nature and dates of noncompliance;
- Identify how COVID-19 caused noncompliance, and take steps to come back into compliance;
- Return to compliance as soon as possible; and
- Document the information, action, or condition specified above.
While the EPA does not expect that regulated entities will need to provide reports in an effort to 'catch-up' if the reporting interval is less than three months long, it does expect that facilities will resume regular accordance with regulations required on an annual or bi-annual basis as soon as possible. While there is added flexibility, the program document makes it clear that the EPA expects all regulated entities to continue to manage and operate their facilities in a manner that is safe and that protects the public and the environment. In addition, nothing within these temporary measures relieves the obligation to prevent, respond to, or report an accidental release.
The implications of COVID-19 on EPA enforcement also has stipulations for certified operators. The document states that certified operators of regulated equipment should maintain the normal certification and and keep training practices in place. But, if that is not possible during this time, the EPA believes that it is more important to keep experienced, trained operators on the job, even if a certification or training is missed.
Owners and operators of fueling sites should read the full document and understand the temporary changes to the policy: COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program
Any notifications to the termination of this temporary policy, will be posted by the EPA here: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/enforcement-policy-guidance-publications.
For more resources on Coronavirus visit our COVID-19 UPDATES AND RESOURCES PAGE.