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The agency added that it would not expect to “request sanctions for non-compliance with monitoring and routine reporting obligations”.
“The EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes that the challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 can have a direct impact on the ability of regulated facilities to respond to all federal regulatory requirements, “said Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA. “This temporary policy is designed to provide discretion to apply under the current extraordinary conditions, while ensuring that the facility’s operations continue to protect human health and the environment.”
The discretionary law enforcement policy is unlimited and applies to civil breaches, although leniency for intentional criminal breaches of the law not be provided, said the agency.
Fines or other civil sanctions will be lifted for companies that have not met certain requirements regarding the release of hazardous pollutants.
Some industries, including the oil and gas industry, had previously requested relief during the pandemic, citing potential personnel problems. Oil prices also fell sharply due to the epidemic, lack of demand and foreign factors – crude oil prices approaching 18 year olds.
Cynthia Giles, head of the EPA law enforcement office under the Obama administration, said the new policy was “essentially a national departure from environmental rules for an indefinite future”.
“This tells businesses across the country that they will not be subject to the application even if they emit illegal air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, as long as they claim these failures are somehow “caused” by the pandemic virus, “she said. Told The hill. “And it also allows them to monitor, so we may never know how bad the severe pollution was.”
The EPA directive said industries should comply with regulations “where reasonably possible”.
Companies that have broken the regulations should be able to demonstrate that they tried to reduce the damage and show how violations were caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the EPA said.
While there have been circumstances where a disaster such as the pandemic could make compliance impossible, these cases have called for close decisions from leniency regulators, said Cynthia Giles, former EPA chief enforcement officer during the Obama administration.
Giles added that she did not remember a time in the history of half a century of the EPA when he “renounced his fundamental authority”.
She added that Thursday’s policy did just that.
“The EPA will regularly assess the need and scope of this temporary policy and update it if the EPA determines that changes are necessary,” the agency said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report