The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has taken a number of actions that have limited travel, broadened enforcement discretion and created solutions for required paper submissions and wet signatures. Below is a summary of those developments.
Restrictions on IDEM Travel
The commissioner of IDEM has issued the following restrictions in response to the developing COVID-19 outbreak:
- Eliminating all out-of-state and international travel until April 26, 2020;
- Limiting office work to its “vital oversight functions and emergency response capabilities” and
- Continuing operational efforts including inspections under IC 12-14-2-2 to ensure compliance under Title 13 of the Indiana Code.
IDEM Guidance on Enforcement
IDEM has also issued a number of guidance documents building upon Governor Holcomb’s “Stay at Home” Order, Executive Order 20-09.
IDEM has issued guidance on how it will exercise enforcement discretion and extensions of IDEM deadlines. Its March 27, 2020 guidance document authorizes state agencies to “waive, suspend, or modify any existing rule of their agency where the enforcement of which would be detrimental to the public welfare during this emergency…” While IDEM does not identify any regulatory requirements that should be generally waived as a result of the workforce impacts of COVID-19, it is encouraging all regulated entities to “take all available actions necessary to ensure continued compliance with environmental regulations and permit requirements to protect the health and safety of Hoosiers and the environment.” If noncompliance is unavoidable directly due to impacts from COVID-19, IDEM will then exercise enforcement discretion as appropriate.
While IDEM will generally not offer pre-approval, it encourages proactive contact about anticipated non-compliance by including the following:
- A concise description of how the COVID-19 outbreak contributes to the anticipated or ongoing noncompliance;
- The anticipated duration of the noncompliance;
- A citation of rule/permit provision for which enforcement discretion is requested and
- The entity must maintain records to document activities related to the noncompliance.
IDEM will also grant an extension for any non-essential deadline for a period of no longer than 60 days. The request should be sent to the appropriate program contacts and include:
- A concise description of how the COVID-19 outbreak contributes to the need for an extension;
- The current deadline and the number of additional days requested and
- The rule or permit provision for which the extension is sought.
IDEM has also issued Rules for Written Correspondence and Electronic Signatures.
That guidance governs submissions, correspondence and signatures. All submissions, including permit applications, reports associated with compliance and all written correspondence should be submitted electronically. Electronic submissions that are not related to previous correspondence with a particular IDEM staff member and new correspondence done by direction of IDEM should be done through that staff member, otherwise, the following should be used:
Where paper copies or wet signatures are required by rule or status, IDEM has extended the deadline for submitting the paper files to April 17, 2020. The paper submissions will be matched with electronic copies and deemed received on the date of electronic submission.
For questions or guidance on Indiana’s Environmental Protection Agency’s COVID-19 response and regulatory flexibility request process, please contact a member of Taft’s Environmental team for assistance.
Please visit our COVID-19 Toolkit for all of Taft’s updates on the coronavirus.