- COVID-19: US Federal, State and Territory EHS Agency Relief Actions
Tracking Announcements Across All Federal, State, and Territorial Environmental Regulatory Agencies
Below we track the results of our investigation of announcements made to date across all federal, state, and territorial environmental regulatory agencies, with regard to the Coronavirus’s impact on deadlines and environmental compliance obligations generally, public proceedings, and agency services and operations.
Navigate the responses by jurisdiction. We will continue to update this list as new announcements emerge.
April 21, 2020: BLM interim guidance for lease suspension requests during COVID-19 emergency also applies to Indian oil and gas leases.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
BLM is continuing to deliver essential services to the greatest extent practicable, while following CDC guidelines and working with state and local health authorities to minimize transmission of COVID-19. BLM encourages visitors to contact or visit their local BLM state or district office’s website for updates. Read more
April 21, 2020: BLM releases interim guidance for lease suspension requests during the COVID-19 national emergency.
April 30, 2020: EPA news releases announcing EPA’s plan to provide grant funding to support environmental justice communities impacted by COVID-19.
April 22, 2020: EPA posts an Interim Final Rule in the Federal Register regarding temporary amendments to the Continuous Emission Monitoring (CEM) quality assurances requirements during the COVID-19 emergency.
April 10, 2020: EPA issues memo, Interim Guidance on Site Field Work Decisions Due to Impacts of COVID-19, that provides factors for the various EPA Regions to consider when deciding whether to continue, reduce, or pause a responsible party’s site field activities under various programs such as the Superfund program, RCRA corrective actions, TSCA PCB cleanup provisions, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Underground Storage Tank (UST) program. The memo reiterates EPA’s earlier guidance that Regions make any site field operations decisions on a case-by-case basis. In regards to regulated parties who believe that COVID-19 restrictions may delay their performance of program obligations, the EPA memo urges these parties to consult their applicable enforcement instrument and review any force majeure or other provisions that might allow for their EPA project manager to make schedule adjustments. The EPA memo advises concerned parties to communicate with their respective EPA project managers about any anticipated challenges associated with their site or its field work. The following is a non-exclusive list of some of the factors the EPA memo outline:
- Factors to Consider When Deciding Whether to Reduce or Suspend a Site Field Response Action:
- Whether any state, tribal, or local health officials have requested that particular operations be suspended;
- Whether any site workers have tested positive for or are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms;
- If there is potential for close interaction with high risk groups at the site (for example, work within homes);
- Whether contractor field personnel are unable to conduct activities due to state, tribal, or local travel restrictions or medical quarantines;
- Whether social distancing is possible at the site.
- Factors to Consider on a Site-Specific Basis:
- Whether failure to continue response actions would pose an imminent threat to human health (for example, if ceasing operations would potentially expose humans to contaminated drinking water, lead, arsenic, PCBs, asbestos, etc.;
Whether failure to continue response actions would pose an imminent threat of a potential catastrophic event or potentially escalate an ongoing emergency event (for example, if ceasing operations would escalate or increase the possibility of a mine blow-out, fire, explosion, etc.).
April 2, 2020: Announced extension of comment period to May 18, 2020 for proposed rule “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.”
March 26, 2020: Announced temporary enforcement discretion policy for COVID-19 pandemic applicable to civil violations during the outbreak. The policy requires regulated entities to “make every effort to comply with their environmental compliance obligations” and keep records of incidents in which they are unable to comply for COVID-19-related reasons. “EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.” EPA will provide notice at least 7 days before terminating the policy. V&E has analyzed the policy in more detail here.
Relaxed requirement to obtain EPA approval before obtaining certain inactive ingredients from different suppliers. Read more
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
April 2, 2020:
FERC issued a policy statement assuring entities that it will give the highest priority to processing filings made for the purpose of assuring business continuity of regulated entities’ energy infrastructure during this time. To further assist expeditious actions, FERC issued other orders and extending extensions for certain filing requirements and temporarily delegating further authority to the Director, Office of Energy Market Regulation, or the Director’s designee, to take action on uncontested requests for waiver of certain regulatory obligations to address needs resulting from steps entities have taken to meet the emergency conditions caused by the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID‑19). Read more
FERC’s Chairman announced that Enforcement Staff will take the current emergency into account when assessing the timeliness of self-reporting and evaluating compliance programs as part of its analyses under the Penalty Guidelines or as part of an audit for operations taking place during the emergency. The Chairman announced other measures, including extensions of time for certain deadlines, that the Office of Enforcement is taking to relieve the burden on regulated entities in an audit while also remaining vigilant with respect to market surveillance to protect market participants and consumers. Read more
March 26, 2020: FERC and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions (NARUC) today announced they are urging all state authorities to designate utility workers as essential to the nation’s critical infrastructure to ensure the reliability of the nation’s energy transmission and distribution systems. Read more
March 19, 2020: Office of the Secretary has issued notice of deadline extensions for certain required filings due on or before May 1, 2020, including non-statutory items such as compliance filings, responses to deficiency letters, rulemaking comments, and forms required by FERC (except for FERC Form No. 6). Extension also applies to filings required by entities’ tariffs or rate schedules. Read more
Entities may also seek waiver of Commission orders, regulations, and tariffs and rate schedules, as appropriate. Read more
FERC’s Office of Enforcement postponing all previously scheduled audit site visits and investigative testimony. Office of Enforcement will also act expeditiously in granting extensions and waivers of compliance filings, forms and EQRs, as appropriate. Read more
FERC Chief Administrative Law Judge has postponed hearing scheduled for April 7, 2020 and will make other case-specific calls on other hearings as their start dates approach. ALJ settlement conferences will continue via conference call. Read more
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
May 4, 2020: Department of Labor publishes 11 new translations of OSHA poster to help prevent workplace coronavirus exposure.
April 10, 2020: Issued enforcement guidance for occupational illness recording, indicating that, for most employers, OSHA will not enforce the requirement to make work-relatedness determinations unless there is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related and the evidence was reasonably available to the employer.
April 3, 2020: Issued guidance relating to “enforcement discretion to permit the extended use and reuse of respirators.” Read more
Issued guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. Read more
Issued guidance for solid waste and wastewater management workers and employers. Read more
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
March 19, 2020: FWS announces temporary suspension of all entrance fees at national wildlife refuges until further notice. Almost 500 refuges are already open to the public. Read more
Department of Commence (DoC)
March 24, 2020: NMFS issued emergency action to provide authority to waive observer coverage, some training, and other program requirements on a case-by-case basis to protect public health and the safety of fishmen, etc.. Notice of the action will be published in the Federal Register on March 27, 2020. Read more
March 20, 2020: NMFS is temporarily waiving the requirement for vessels with Greater Atlantic Region fishing permits to carry a fishery observe or at-sea monitor through April 4, 2020
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Frequently Asked Questions and USDA Actions to Respond to COVID-19.
March 26, 2020: USDA announced nationwide waivers to allow states flexibility to allow parent pick-up of meals for kids and to ease burdens on local meal providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more
March 25, 2020: USDA implements immediate measures to help rural residents, businesses, and communities affected by COVID-19, including waiving or relaxing Single-Family Housing Direct Loan applications and site assessments, extending financial statement deadlines, and extending rural utilities service CPA audit deadlines. Read more
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
April 22, 2020: PHMSA issues notice of enforcement discretion for gas pipeline operators.
- Includes 6-month stay of enforcement of initial Part 192 compliance deadlines in the rule if regulated entities unable to comply due to COVID-19 difficulties.
April 2, 2020: PHMSA issues temporary relief to companies transporting hand sanitizer by highway. Read more
April 1, 2020: PHMSA issues hazardous materials emergency special permits to certain entities seeking exemptions. Special permits are necessary in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Read more
March 25, 2020: PHMSA issues a stay of enforcement of compliance against hazmat employers who are unable to provide recurrent training consistent with Hazardous Materials training requirement. Read more
March 20, 2020: PHMSA issues a stay of enforcement for pipeline operators due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The stay temporarily halts enforcement of compliance with operator qualification, control room management, and employee drug testing requirements, but does not relieve operators of their safety responsibility to use trained, non-impaired workers to perform operation and maintenance tasks. Read more
March 19, 2020: PHMSA provides guidance to state pipeline safety programs, prioritizing time-sensitive work and minimizing COVID-19 exposure. Read more
Department of Energy (DOE)
General updates on how DOE is responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
DOE scientists are studying COVID-19. Read more
A new public-private partnership will provide COVID-19 researches access to high performance computing resources. Read more
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
April 16, 2020: NRC issues SECY-20-0034, informing the NRC Commissioners of the plan to exercise enforcement discretion for licensee noncompliance with regulatory requirements resulting from illnesses or other factors caused by the COVID-19 national emergency.
Attorney Contact: Laura Ashdown
Please visit our Coronavirus: Preparation & Response series for additional resources we hope will be helpful.