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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.

Department of Defense (DoD)
DoD COVID-19 response.

Attorney Contact: Corinne Snow

Department of Justice (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)
March 20, 2020: Attorney General William P. Barr urges the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19. Read more

Attorney Contacts: Ron Tenpas and Corinne Snow

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
General Coronavirus Information.

Issued guidance regarding Coronavirus and drinking water and wastewater.

June 29, 2020: EPA issues an Addendum to its March 2020 COVID-19 Temporary Enforcement Policy announcing that the Temporary Enforcement Policy will terminate on August 31, 2020 or earlier, subject to seven days’ notice.

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

March 13, 2020: Expedited review of disinfectants and expanded disinfectant list.

Attorney Contacts: Eric GrotenRon TenpasPatrick TraylorCorinne Snow, Misty Howell and Conrad Bolston

 

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

FERC Response and Updates on Coronavirus.

May 20, 2020 (updated June 5, 2020): FERC announces a Commissioner-led technical conference on July 8-9, 2020 to “consider the ongoing, serious impacts that the emergency conditions caused by COVID-19 are having on various segments of the United States’ energy industry.  Read more

May 14, 2020: Resource Developed to Help Organizations Update Pandemic Response Plans.  Read more

May 8, 2020: FERC Provides Guidance to Oil Pipelines During COVID-19 Emergency indicating that temporary waivers or extensions may be requested for cost-of-service filing requirements, reporting requirements, recordkeeping requirements, accounting regulations, and depreciation studies.  Read more

May 7, 2020: FERC issues Accounting Guidance regarding credit losses and shortens the comment period for Federal Power Act section 204 filings from 21 days to five business days.  Read more

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

Attorney Contact:  Jay Seegers, Anita Wilson, John DeckerSuzanne Clevenger, Andrew Beach, Damien Lyster, Chris Terhune, Corinne Snow, Brandon Tuck, Victoria Galvez Godfrey and Misty Howell

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

May 19, 2020: OSHA issues updated enforcement guidance for recording cases of COVID-19 and an Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for handling COVID-19-related complaints and reports.  Read more here and here

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

Attorney Contacts: Corinne Snow and Misty Howell

US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
USACE Coronavirus Updates

Regulated entities should refer to their local USACE District Office’s website for updates on regulatory enforcement and COVID-19.

Galveston District USACE COVID-19 information

Attorney Contacts: Corinne Snow and Audrey Doane

Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

General information on how the Coronavirus is impacting FWS.

Update on State-by-State and Territory Closures due to Coronavirus.

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

Attorney Contacts: Corinne Snow

Department of Commence (DoC)

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA)
Coronavirus Updates.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (a.k.a, NOAA Fisheries)
NOAA Fisheries Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

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

Attorney Contacts: Corinne Snow

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Frequently Asked Questions and USDA Actions to Respond to COVID-19.

April 13, 2020: USDA issues COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide indicating financial and other federal resources to support rural communities.  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

U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
USFS Coronavirus Updates

Attorney Contacts: Corinne Snow

US Department of Transportation (DOT)
DOT Coronavirus Updates

Federal Transit Administration

April 23, 2020: FTA issues Notice of Enforcement Discretion relating to Agency Safety Plan requirements in effect until December 31, 2020.  Read more

Maritime Administration
General COVID-19 information

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
General COVID-19 information

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
May 29, 2020: Extended due dates for unpaid user fees to July 31, 2020.  Read more

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

Attorney Contacts: Corinne Snow, Audrey Doane

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

Attorney Contacts: Corinne Snow

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.