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Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a temporary enforcement discretion policy, giving leniency to facilities that don’t meet federal environmental regulations due to problems associated with the spread of COVID-19.

According to the policy, facilities that are not compliant with regulations will be asked to verify the lapse was a direct result of the pandemic.

Peggy Sanner, executive director of the Virginia Chesapeake Bay Foundation is concerned about this policy. She says there may be missed opportunities for public transparency and input.

“And we are concerned that there may be some occasions where there's a difference of opinion whether or not lack of compliance is caused by the crisis," she said. "We're concerned that there may be gaps in some estimates arising from this memorandum that may endanger public health.” 

According to Sanner, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is taking a more balanced approach under the circumstances.

The DEQ issued a statement that in Virginia the COVID-19 crisis will not give a free pass to regulated industry and that non-compliance will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

“The Department of Environmental Quality has been much more proactive in making it clear: it's not an open season," Sanner said. "In other words, environmental rules still apply.”

She said the EPA at the federal level and the DEQ at the state level need to enforce regulations in tandem to benefit the health of the Chesapeake Bay.