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Environmental compliance during COVID-19 pandemic

published in McAfee & Taft LINC Alert | March 23, 2020

Ever-changing COVID-19 information is driving daily, sometimes hourly, changes to human interaction protocols.  As such, during the coming weeks, it is anticipated that regulated facilities will experience disruptions in their ability to maintain compliance with environmental requirements.  In particular, maintaining continuous compliance with environmental recordkeeping/monitoring/testing/reporting requirements will be challenging.  Please note the following updates relative to potential disruptions stemming from the COVID-19 situation:

Agency Alerts – We recommend staying aware of updates from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), the Environmental Protection Agency – Region 6 (EPA), and other regulating agencies.

Recordkeeping/monitoring/testing/reporting requirements – We have reached out to government authorities for input.  At this time we don’t anticipate the implementation of any formal relaxation(s) to environmental requirements that would ease the regulatory burden on industrial facilities.  However, when things return to normal, we do anticipate that agencies will exercise enforcement discretion when resolving any COVID-19 driven disruptions.  Ideally, facilities will be able to make adjustments in order to maintain continuous compliance with environmental requirements.  However, If non-compliance situations arise, then facilities should carefully document any disruptions to procedure(s) that created gaps in record-keeping/monitoring/testing/reporting requirements.  In particular, it will be important to capture information necessary to describe the problem, duration, and any corrective measures to mitigate.  Having this information will allow us to better assist when preparing explanations and arguments relative to an agency resolution process, e.g., during self-reporting.

Significant compliance disruptions – Facilities may also experience compliance disruptions of increased significance, e.g., by-passing pollution control systems.  These situations will likely require immediate attention and an aggressive response and/or mitigation strategy.

Please contact the firm’s Environmental Law team for assistance.  While we are observing social distancing protocols, we can be reached through all of our normal contact points.