COVID-19 is causing great uncertainty for manufacturers in all respects. Workers throughout the private and public sectors are increasingly working from home and dealing with restrictions on travel and in-person meetings, all of which is having a significant impact on the operations of manufacturers, as well as federal, state, and local agencies.
The challenges are evolving quickly. Supply chain issues, staffing reductions, unavailable contractors, temporary shutdowns, and scaling back of operations can lead to particular environmental compliance questions. What are manufacturers’ obligations in the event that an employee tests positive for COVID-19? How can manufacturers be prepared for environmental permitting issues related to temporary shutdowns and changes in operations? With state agencies shutting down or working remotely, how will inspections, permit modifications, violations, and renewals be handled? Will regulatory agencies allow extensions for reporting, monitoring, and performance testing requirements in light of disruptions to operations? How do those dealing with contamination management ensure that control measures will remain stable during this period of uncertainty?
When it comes to federal and state regulations and permits, keep in mind that force majeure provisions may allow for flexibility in environmental obligations for situations arising from sudden and reasonably unforeseeable events beyond the control of the manufacturer. Where force majeure provisions are not available, manufacturers may also request a special order by consent or other accommodations from regulatory agencies to avoid disrupting operations due to potential compliance issues associated with COVID-19. Voluntary self-disclosure policies and regulations may also be available when environmental compliance issues arise due to unforeseeable circumstances beyond the control of the manufacturer.
In all cases, when disruptions caused by COVID-19 make it impossible or impractical to maintain strict compliance with environmental regulations or permits, it is crucial to establish early communication with regulators. That is the best way to explore and advocate for available accommodations to minimize the potential repercussions of any environmental noncompliance.
For more information, please contact us or your regular Parker Poe contact. You can also find the firm's other COVID-19 alerts here.