Post COVID-19 stay-at-home orders (SAHO) – and as we go back to “normal” – what is the likelihood of a sudden resurgence in new or deferred Superfund cleanups, and associated construction?
It is impossible to ignore that fact (and EPA must be aware of it) that construction jobs can and will be important to economic recovery. Construction work provides good, well-paying jobs, which will be critical to restarting the economy, and that is paramount. EPA, especially Office of Land and Emergency Management, will recognize they have a key role to play in those efforts.
But many Superfund sites currently involved in cleanup have not seen stoppage or material delays during SAHO. At most, COVID-19 concerns have slowed these actions somewhat, but not completely suspended them.
Does that mean that EPA will be looking to initiate cleanup at sites previously overlooked or held in abeyance post SAHO? We have no way to know at this point. A senior EPA official recently said the agency and its toxic waste cleanup programs will have a “key role” in restarting the economy after the coronavirus pandemic ends. See: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/environment_energy_resources/events_cle/49thspring/
Bottom line: Savvy companies with potential environmental clean-up liability should prepare to defend any ultra vires actions by EPA – or even actions that stretch EPA’s authority – in an EPA attempt to “pump prime” the economy by moving forward with clean up actions that are not advised or legally necessary.
Please see previous post here.