The US EPA will discontinue by 31 August its temporary policy to exercise ‘enforcement discretion’ for companies that fail to meet routine environmental reporting and monitoring requirements due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The end date “recognises that the circumstances surrounding the temporary policy are changing, but also ensures that there is adequate time to adjust to the changing circumstances,” according to a 29 June memorandum from EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (Oeca) assistant administrator Susan Parker Bodine.
The temporary policy, originally announced in late March, had sparked widespread concern that it would be used as a ‘licence to pollute’. The EPA, however, defended its decision, saying that it expected companies to continue to comply with their regulatory obligations, and it was intended to ensure that the agency could focus its resources on the most critical issues.
Since then, new federal guidelines and directives have been issued and many parts of the country have taken steps to return to normal operations, said the memorandum ending the policy.
“As state and local restrictions are relaxed or lifted, so too may the restrictions that potentially impede regulatory compliance, reducing the circumstances in which the temporary policy may apply,” it said.
The agency said it might decide to suspend the policy before 31 August.
It also retains the ability to “exercise enforcement discretion on a case-by-case basis regarding any noncompliance, including noncompliance caused by the Covid-19 public health emergency, before or after the temporary policy is terminated.”
Chemical Watch, 2 July 2020