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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.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume X, Number 98


About this Author

Lauren A. Hopkins Consumer Products Attorney Beveridge & Diamond San Francisco, CA
Office Managing Principal

Lauren’s practice focuses primarily on global product stewardship, responsible sourcing, and corporate sustainability.

She advises clients across a range of industry sectors on environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures, responsible sourcing of raw materials including “conflict minerals” and forest products, as well as human rights and labor issues in corporate operations and supply chains. She advises on issues including interpretation and implementation of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s conflict minerals rule, supply chain due diligence, and the...

Allyn L. Stern Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Seattle, WA
Of Counsel

Allyn brings over 30 years of insider understanding of government operations.

Her experience as former Region 10 Counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informs her deep policy, regulatory, and enforcement knowledge. Allyn draws on her breadth and depth of expertise to help clients comply with an array of environmental statutes and regulations applicable to their businesses, including Clean Water Act (CWA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit approvals, risk management under the Clean Air Act 112(r), civil and criminal enforcement, Superfund cleanup and redevelopment, and pollution prevention strategies.

Allyn's in-depth knowledge of EPA policies and Department of Justice protocols enables her to capably advise clients on their interactions with these agencies. She guides clients through environmental issues arising in business operations, real estate development and permitting, or litigation. She has extensive experience with many environmental statutes, particularly the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); RCRA; and CWA.

As Regional Counsel at EPA, she was the senior executive covering litigation strategy and counseling for all matters in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. She also spent over 20 years as an EPA line attorney, then as a managing attorney in EPA’s San Francisco office covering California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and the territorial islands. She provided legal advice and strategy on hundreds of EPA decisions including tribal treaty rights and consultation, CWA permits, water quality standards, Total Maximum Daily Load allocations, Superfund removal and remedial actions, and many enforcement cases. She also focused on incident response and was selected to be a part of the investigation team following the Gold King Mine release. In San Francisco, she also served as Deputy Director for the regional air program.

Allyn has taught law since 2005, with positions at the University of California Hastings School of Law, Seattle University, and Seattle University Law School. She has taught courses on Negotiation Skills, Environmental Law, and Environmental Enforcement.

David C. Weber Air & Climate Change Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Seattle, WA
Office Managing Principal

David C. Weber is the Managing Principal and co-founder of Beveridge & Diamond’s Seattle office. 

He also serves as the co-chair of the firm’s Air and Climate Change group. Dave focuses his practice on environmental litigation and compliance counseling, including air and water quality regulation, hazardous waste handling and remediation, and contaminated site cleanups under federal and state laws.

A cornerstone of Dave's practice is advising clients on national air quality and climate change issues. He represents businesses in connection with enforcement proceedings,...