US EPA Issues Temporary Policy Changes to Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has issued a temporary policy outlining relaxed enforcement and regulatory discretion in regard to environmental legal obligations applicable to a variety of facilities. Beginning on March 13, 2020, and extending until revoked, facilities potentially violating reporting obligations, permit limits, regulations, and statutes due to the current pandemic may seek regulatory relief from these requirements. In general, the policy requires facilities to make every effort to comply with environmental requirements.
However, if compliance is not reasonably practicable, the following items should be addressed:
- Maintain documentation of compliance challenges
- Return to compliance as soon as possible
- Identify how COVID-19 was the reason for non-compliance and identify the decisions and actions in response and the efforts to comply
- Identify the specific nature and dates of non-compliance
- Act responsibly
Several highlights from the EPA’s memorandum addressing this policy are presented below and a copy can be found at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/oecamemooncovid19implications.pdf.
Air Emissions/Wastewater Discharge – If your facility has an exceedance of your air emission or wastewater discharge permit limits due to COVID-19 disruptions, you will need to:
- Notify federal or state implementing authority
- The notification should include the pollutants emitted or discharged
- Determine the comparison between the expected emissions or discharges and the applicable limits
- Determine the expected duration and timing
EPA or the state implementing authority will evaluate whether the risk posed is acute or may create an imminent threat.
Hazardous Waste – If your facility is a generator of hazardous waste and you are unable to transfer your waste off-site due to COVID-19 disruptions you should:
- Continue to properly label and store waste in closed containers
- Document the dates of the on-site storage
- Identify how COVID-19 was the cause of the off-site transfer disruption
- Identify the steps (to be) taken to return to compliance
If these steps are met, as an exercise of enforcement discretion, the EPA will continue to treat the facility as a hazardous waste generator, and not a treatment, storage, and disposal facility. In addition, EPA will allow Very Small and Small Quantity Generators to retain their generator status even if the amount of hazardous waste accumulated exceeded their generator status limits. Please be aware that State policies may differ from those of the US EPA.
Tighe & Bond remains a constant and trusted resource for clients and continues to offer services compliant with statewide safety protocols. Our experts are in constant communication with local, state and federal regulators to monitor the unfolding situation and will continue to keep our valued clients informed of changes as they develop.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Tim Kucab at 413.875.1607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.