In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“PADEP”) recently announced the availability of a process for requesting temporary suspensions of environmental permitting and regulatory compliance obligations. Regulated entities experiencing difficulties in meeting the terms and conditions of their environmental permits or complying with environmental regulatory provisions due to COVID-19 should consider submitting a form request to PADEP for relief. Completed forms must be submitted to RA-EPCOVID19SuspReq@pa.gov. While PADEP’s offices remain closed, program staff continue to work remotely to process submitted requests.
Unless a temporary suspension is granted by PADEP, PADEP has confirmed that regulated entities must continue to comply with all environmental permitting and regulatory compliance obligations. As the risk of enforcement and civil penalties for noncompliance remain, regulated entities should take this time to plan accordingly. Due to the potential high volume of temporary suspension requests in the near future, stakeholders should review their environmental permits and compliance programs to identify potential impacts due to workforce availability, resource constraints, and other limitations related to COVID-19 in the coming weeks.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has also issued a Memorandum detailing EPA’s intention to exercise enforcement discretion with regard to various environmental permitting and regulatory compliance obligations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the EPA Memorandum does not directly apply to the environmental regulatory programs administered by PADEP, the guidance should be reviewed with respect to EPA-only permits and regulatory requirements that you may have.