On March 26, 2020 the United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program that will be temporarily and discretely enforced for environmental noncompliance issues that private and public sectors might be facing during and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This policy will be retroactive starting March 13, 2020 and will be updated on a regular basis. The policy is conditioned to a number of actions (as discussed in point I.A below) that regulated entities should undertake to show good faith efforts to comply with their environmental obligations during this COVID-19 pandemic. This policy does not apply to:
- Any criminal violations
- Superfund sites and sites under RCRA Correction Actions enforcement.
- Imports. EPA is especially focusing on pesticides claimed effective against COVID-19.
Let’s see below the main facts about this EPA policy and how they will enforce this program for facilities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
I. Civil Violations
General Conditions. As stated above, regulated entities should make any efforts to comply with their environmental compliance obligations. If compliance is not achievable due COVID-19 impact, facilities should minimize the effects of the noncompliance, identify and document all specific nature(s), date(s) and how the COVID-19 caused the noncompliance and any decisions and actions taken in response.
Please refer to Walden’s upcoming blog (EPA’s COVID-19 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program – PART 2) for additional details on how EPA intends to handle various types of civil violations during this time.
II. State Oversight
EPA believes the States should consider the safety and health of their inspectors and facility personnel and use discretion when making decisions to conduct routine inspections.
III. EPA Actions
EPA expects to focus its resources largely on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent threat to public health or the environment.
IV. Accidental Releases
This policy will not relieve any entities from the responsibility to prevent, respond to, or report accidental releases of oil, hazardous substances, chemicals, waste, and other pollutants.
V. Criminal Violations
The EPA will use their discretion to distinguish violations that are unavoidable as a result of COVID-19 restrictions from violations that are the result of an intentional disregard for the law.
Walden is continuously seeking updates on enforcement policies and any other notifications or communications from Federal, State and Local regulatory agencies that might be a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of maintaining compliance with all applicable environmental, health and safety regulations.
If you think your facility might be affected by this EPA policy or if you have any doubts about its applicability, please contact Walden Environmental Engineering for a free consultation.