Trump’s EPA Relaxes Some Environmental Regulations, Because Coronavirus
EPA’s head compliance official, Susan P. Bodine, recently announced EPA’s intention to loosen regulatory enforcement for businesses in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a memo dated March 26, 2020, Bodine refers to pandemic conditions that have complicated enforcement, including a smaller workforce, social distancing requirements, and travel restrictions. Given all of these sudden, dramatic changes, EPA concludes that “efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements.”
This relaxation of regulations evidently is prompted by a wave of requests from businesses who claim the circumstances they face require more leeway with environmental regulations. As businesses contend with layoffs, restrictions and other pandemic-related complications, they claim their ability to meet the requirements of regulatory agencies is drastically reduced. Companies are ordinarily required to report when facilities emit beyond a certain level of pollution into the air or water. The memo claims EPA will not issue fines for some violations of air and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements, and the policy will be applied retroactively to March 13, 2020.
Public water systems are specifically exempted by the memo. EPA expects water systems to maintain the pre-pandemic regulatory standards, explaining “unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The policy does not apply to Superfund and RCRA actions, though EPA says they will address these matters in “a separate communication.”
The policy is in effect indefinitely during the context of the pandemic. However, whenever the policy is suspended, EPA will expect “full compliance going forward.” They will not ask facilities to go back and make up missed monitoring or reporting if the “underlying requirement applies to intervals of less than three months.” Bi-annual and annual reports will require late monitoring and submission of late reports.