The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday a temporary policy regarding its enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the coronavirus pandemic.
The EPA said that the temporary enforcement discretion policy applies to civil violations and “addresses different categories of noncompliance differently.” For example, the EPA said it doesn’t expect to seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations resulting from the coronavirus “but does expect operators of public water systems to continue to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies.”
The policy also describes steps regulated facilities should take to qualify for enforcement discretion. “EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.”
The temporary policy makes it clear that the EPA expects regulated facilities to comply with regulatory requirements, where reasonably practicable and to return to compliance as quickly as possible. To be eligible for enforcement discretion, the policy also requires facilities to document decisions made to prevent or mitigate noncompliance and demonstrate how the noncompliance was caused by the pandemic.
“This policy does not provide leniency for intentional criminal violations of law,” the EPA said. Nor does the policy apply to activities that are carried out under Superfund and RCRA Corrective Action enforcement instruments. The EPA said it will address these matters in separate communications.