With increasing restrictions on the free movement of people and on the regular functioning of public agencies due to the covid-19 pandemic, most environmental agencies have taken steps to minimize the impacts of the virus on administrative proceedings.
There was an interruption in in-person services to the public, which led to suspension of deadlines for defenses and appeals, electronic processing of environmental licensing cases, and cancellation of any technical meetings. Although environmental oversight has not been officially suspended, there has been considerable impact on the activities of inspection agents.
At the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), a federal environmental agency, procedural deadlines have been suspended for an indefinite period of time and employees will have to work remotely. Even if the oversight activity is maintained, effective performance thereof requires a determination by Ibama's agents at each of its units.
In São Paulo, the Environmental Company of the State of São Paulo (Cetesb) temporarily cancelled service to the public, and ordered suspension of the procedural deadlines for 30 days, counting from March 16.
In Rio de Janeiro, the State Environmental Institute (Inea) also suspended in-person service between March 16 and 27, the same period for the suspension of appeal deadlines in administrative proceedings.
In Minas Gerais, the state government, through the State Environmental System (Sisema), suspended the deadlines for procedural acts carried out in environmental licensing, in environmental intervention, in grants for rights to use water resources and inspection, a decision which is valid through April 30 and applies to all authorized acts of the State Department of the Environment and Sustainable Development (Semad), the Minas Gerais Institute of Water Management (Igam), the State Forests Institute (IEF), and the State Foundation for the Environment (Feam).
The environmental agencies of the other states and municipal agencies have also been issuing rules for the suspension of services and deadlines, which should have a substantial impact on the progress of environmental licensing, authorization, and approval processes, as well as inspection activities as a whole.