In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suspended requirements for state agencies to perform on-site compliance inspections in favor of off-site monitoring alternatives.

In a recent letter, the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance announced that state environmental protection agencies must continue with their required planned inspection commitments of businesses under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA); Safe Drinking Water Act(SDWA), Clean Air Act (CAA); Clean Water Act (CWA); Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); and Underground Storage Tank programs. Instead, EPA will allow state agencies to meet inspection requirements through alternative means including: postponing inspections until they are determined to be safe when possible, using off-site compliance monitoring, and off-site inspections. Although EPA stated that “Remote Video Partial Compliance Evaluations” may be used to determine non-compliance with requirements and for identifying inspection priorities, it is still uncertain exactly how off-site compliance monitoring and off-site inspections might work.

The important take away is that state environmental compliance inspections of regulated facilities will occur as planned in 2020 and 2021, but may be delayed or performed remotely. It remains uncertain exactly how remote inspections will proceed and what techniques may be used to ensure their validity.