The recently announced U.S. EPA policy on enforcement discretion during the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to issue clarifying guidance.
The DEQ statement, issued March 31, says:
All regulated entities are expected to make every effort to comply with environmental compliance obligations, adhere to permit limits, and maintain the safe and environmentally protective operation of their facilities. We recognize this is an unprecedented public health crisis. DEQ must balance environmental protection with protecting the public’s health. As we all continue to navigate through this crisis, DEQ staff will consider non-compliance issues resulting from COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis, but by no means does this crisis equal a free pass for the regulated community.
However, should growing health concerns and public safety recommendations resulting from COVID-19 and Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 51 declaring a state of emergency in Virginia affect normal operations, DEQ will review non-compliance issues on a case-by-case basis and exercise enforcement discretion as appropriate.
The WV DEP issued a statement on March 27 saying:
It is important to note that the WVDEP expects facilities to continue to be operated in a manner that fully protects human health and the environment. This includes, but is not limited to, continued operation and monitoring pollution control devices, record-keeping, maintenance, testing, and reporting requirements. If compliance is not reasonably practicable due to issues related to COVID-19 pandemic, facilities with environmental compliance obligations should contact the WVDEP and follow the requirements outlined in the EPA memorandum listed here: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/enforcement-policy-guidance-publications.