April 30, 2020

Environmental Enforcement during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Peggy Otum, Rachel Jacobson, David Gold, Michael Hazel, Bonnie Heiple, Heidi Ruckriegle, and Shannon Morrissey

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to rapid-fire legislative, executive, and regulatory responses in the United States. One notable example is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) temporary policy of nonenforcement of certain “routine” environmental monitoring and reporting obligations. Issued March 26, 2020, but retroactively effective to March 13, the policy identifies violations for which EPA does not plan to seek penalties, and a broader commitment to consider a totality of circumstances—including the COVID-19 pandemic—in determining whether enforcement action is appropriate in other scenarios. The policy is not industry specific and does not have an explicit end date. Its broad applicability makes it likely to affect a wide range of businesses, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, water, and transportation. 

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