Environmental compliance inspections on hold

With the assistance of our environmental counsel, Troutman Sanders, VAA is constantly monitoring environmental compliance issues associated with COVID-19. Due to ever-increasing concerns with protecting their workforce, DEQ has temporarily suspended all field level compliance inspections. According to information released on DEQ’s website: “DEQ has temporarily suspended all fieldwork to allow the agency to assess COVID exposure risks to field staff, develop exposure mitigation plans and prioritize monitoring and inspections for the resumption of field activities. The decision to resume fieldwork, in whole or in part, will be based upon an evaluation of exposure risk scenarios and the status of COVID-19 spread.”

Additionally, both the EPA and DEQ have issued guidance regarding enforcement discretion in the wake of the coronavirus. The guidance acknowledges that COVID-19 and related government social distancing restrictions may affect facility operations and performance. It addresses steps that regulated entities must take for any noncompliance to be considered for enforcement relief under the guidance. DEQ’s guidance makes clear that DEQ expects compliance with all environmental obligations and permit limits. Nevertheless, DEQ will consider any noncompliance resulting from COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. Similar to EPA’s guidance, DEQ requests that any noncompliance be minimized and well-documented, including documenting why COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance. It is clear that both the EPA and DEQ fully expect compliance with all environmental regulations even during this unsettling time. Should noncompliance occur, the importance of complete and proper documentation is critical.