California Regulatory Agencies Emphasize Continued Compliance During COVID-19 Response

The California State Water Resources Control Board and the California Air Resources Board have provided direction for complying with regulatory requirements during the COVID-19 response.

On March 19, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order requiring California residents to stay at home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This order requires residents to “shelter in place” but allowed an exemption for activities deemed to be “essential.”

State Water Board Response

The day after Governor Newsom’s Order, the State Water Board and the nine Regional Water Resource Control Boards (Water Boards) issued a statement reminding the regulatory community that compliance with Board orders and other regulatory requirements was of the utmost importance and considered to be an “essential” function during the COVID-19 response.

Nevertheless, the Water Boards recognized that there may be instances in which timely compliance is not possible but limiting that to those activities that would be “inconsistent with current governmental directives or guidelines related to COVID-19.” When those occur, companies are to notify the appropriate Water Board immediately and provide the following information:

  • the specific Water Board order, regulation, permit, or other requirement that cannot be timely met,
  • the inconsistent COVID-19 directive or guideline,
  • an explanation of why the responsible entity cannot timely meet the Water Board order or requirement, and
  • any action that the entity will take in lieu of complying with the specific Water Board order or requirement.

The Water Board says that staff will do their best to respond within 24-48 hours.

CARB’s Response

CARB Chair Mary Nichols, and Executive Officer, Richard Corey, issued a message with CARB’s response to the pandemic. With respect to regulatory deadlines, CARB’s message is that these remain in effect and continue to apply. Nichols and Corey state that CARB is focusing on business continuity and while some delay may occur, the objective is to maintain, regulatory activities and enforcement, among other things. CARB has not established a process to consider enforcement discretion or to evaluate compliance issues during the COVID-19 response.

Although the situation may change as the pandemic response evolves, the message from California is that environmental compliance is a high priority and non-compliance will not typically be excused. Because this is a very dynamic set of circumstances, it is important to regularly check for updates and contact the agencies if issues arise.

As the leading law firm for environmental law and litigation, B&D helps clients meet environmental, health, and safety challenges impacting the workplace, including many unprecedented issues posed by COVID-19. Please visit B&D’s COVID-19 Resource Page for more information, which we will update as developments occur.