Environmental Concerns Related to COVID-19
Last updated March 30, 2020
While we are all dealing with the challenges presented by coronavirus, it is important that environmental compliance not be forgotten. Regulated companies should review notice and other requirements in environmental permits and check upcoming deadlines in consent orders or other oversight documents. Both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) have issued guidance to help regulated entities in this difficult time.
USEPA has issued a Guidance Memorandum indicating when it will exercise enforcement discretion during the pandemic. Anyone facing compliance issues during the pandemic should consult this guidance, which contains specific requirements for notice, record keeping and documentation among other obligations. The guidance does not override existing consent orders and does not apply to Superfund remediation.
USEPA has also issued new policy to ensure an adequate supply of gasoline by delaying requirements to shift from winter gasoline blends to summer blends, has expedited approval of certain sanitizing products and has updated its list of approved sanitizers. USEPA has also provided assurances regarding drinking water and water treatment.
NJDEP has issued a compliance advisory to water system operators and wastewater dischargers. Linked to this is a memorandum addressing relaxation of certain monitoring and reporting requirements in anticipation of because of personnel and laboratory limitations.
If for any reason, the COVID-19 issues create an environmental compliance concern, it is important that the regulated entity communicate promptly with the agencies. For any potential significant non-compliance, the NJDEP hotline (1-877-WARN DEP) should be called. In other circumstances, NJDEP, or as applicable USEPA or local agencies, should be contacted. Failure to contact the agencies may vitiate the ability to assert affirmative defenses to non-compliance under environmental laws or the ability to obtain extensions of applicable deadlines. NJDEP reemphasized this in a compliance advisory.
As all of these guidance documents indicate, the key is to minimize harm, document reasons for non-compliance and communicate with the oversight agency.
If you have any questions, please contact the author listed below.
For additional information pertaining to the coronavirus outbreak, please visit CSG's COVID-19 Resource Center.
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