Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and the Commonwealth’s Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) have established a waiver process through which businesses may seek relief from failing to strictly comply with environmental law and regulation because of the COVID-19 crisis. PADEP announced it will not be entertaining blanket waivers, but rather will review each application on a case-by-case basis.

The Governor’s policy follows on the heels of a federal policy issued last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under which the Trump administration may in certain circumstances choose to waive enforcement of violations caused in whole or in part by the crisis. Please see our previous alert on that topic here.

Pennsylvania, like many states, has the authority to enforce its own environmental regulations, as well as having been delegated by the EPA the authority to enforce many federal laws, such as the federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. Governor Wolf’s policy makes it clear that regulated entities seeking relief under federal environmental laws not delegated to the Commonwealth should apply for relief directly to the EPA. Those seeking relief under programs delegated to the Commonwealth can seek relief from the PADEP. Note that federal Clean Air Act enforcement has been delegated to the counties of Allegheny and Philadelphia, so it is likely that applications for relief from strict enforcement of that law in those counties should in the first instance be directed to, in Philadelphia, the Air Management Services division of Public Health, and in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County Health Department Air Quality Program.

For those who wish to seek relief, the Commonwealth has created a waiver application form that can be found here.

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