DEQ issues updated COVID-19 enforcement guidance
“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,” said Paylor. “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.
If full compliance is not possible due to rational COVID-19-related impacts, facilities with environmental compliance obligations should communicate regularly with DEQ and:
- Act responsibly under the circumstances to minimize the effects and duration of any non-compliance caused by COVID-19
- Identify the specific nature and dates of non-compliance
- Identify how COVID-19 was the cause of non-compliance
- Immediately share with DEQ the decisions and actions taken in response, including best efforts to comply and steps taken to come into compliance
- Return to compliance as soon as possible
- Document and maintain all related documentation on site for at least three years
If DEQ agrees that COVID-19 impacts were the cause of non-compliance issues, the agency does not anticipate penalizing routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and related reporting and certification obligations.
For more specific information about DEQ’s enforcement and compliance activities, contact DEQ’s Director of Central Operations Jeff Steers at Jeffery.Steers@DEQ.Virginia.gov or 804-698-4079.
For more information and updates on DEQ’s COVID-19 response, visit www.DEQ.Virginia.gov.