DEP AND EPA TO ASSIST HOLDERS OF ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITS
In accordance with Governor Wolf’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency of March 6, 2020 and the Governor’s powers pursuant to the Emergency Management Code, 35 Pa.C.S. §7301, the Governor has authority to suspend regulatory obligations and other legal obligations where strict compliance will prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the COVID-19 emergency.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) has 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. Although DEP’s offices remain closed, program staff continue to work remotely to process submitted requests. An explanation of the process and the forms are available at https://www.dep.pa.gov/Pages/AlertDetails.aspx.
Unless a temporary suspension is granted, 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, developers and landowners should plan accordingly. Due to the potential high volume of temporary suspension requests in the near future, developers and landowners should review their environmental permits and compliance programs to identify potential impacts due to limitations related to COVID-19 in the coming weeks. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued a Memorandum on March 26 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 DEP, the guidance should be reviewed with respect to EPA-only permits and regulatory requirements. If you are requesting suspension of a Federal requirement, under only Federal authority, you may contact US EPA Region III and refer to the US EPA March 26, 2020 Memorandum (COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program). To the extent the request relates to a federal program delegated to Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania will review requests submitted in this format. You may view the EPA Covid-19 Memorandum here.
For further information, please feel free to contact Neil Andrew Stein, Esquire at (610) 941-2469 or firstname.lastname@example.org.