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U.S. EPA eases enforcement during coronavirus outbreak – memo

FILE PHOTO: The Environmental Protection Agency headquarters is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 19, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) – The Trump administration will ease back on environmental enforcement and compliance requirements to help U.S. businesses cope with the coronavirus outbreak, according to an Environmental Protection Agency memo dated Thursday and seen by Reuters.

The decision follows requests by the energy industry and other sectors for temporary relief from some regulations, and as Washington scrambles to limit the economic hit from the pandemic that has infected nearly half a million people worldwide.

The memo said the agency does not expect to fine polluting industries for violating certain monitoring and reporting requirements, and will “focus its resources largely on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent threat to public health or the environment.”

“In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause,” it said.

The EPA said it would also work with the Department of Justice to “exercise enforcement discretion” related to penalties previously assessed on polluting companies.

The memo was addressed to “All Governmental and Private Sector Partners” and was signed by Susan Bodine, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance.

The American Petroleum Institute had asked U.S. President Donald Trump for help suspending certain regulatory requirements on the oil and gas industry to ensure steady fuel supplies during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a letter it sent to Trump March 20 and seen by Reuters.

Reporting by Laura Sanicola and Valerie Volcovici; editing by Richard Valdmanis, Chris Reese and David Gregorio

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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