In light of the coronavirus disease (“COVID-19”), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance directing that all Federal Executive Branch departments and agencies within the National Capital Region (Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.) allow maximum telework flexibilities to all current telework eligible employees. This guidance applies to the headquarters of the agencies most involved in regulating hydroelectric projects, such as the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of the Interior (DOI), including the National Park Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the Forest Service (FS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent agency within DOE, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), housed within the Department of the Army, have also taken significant steps to respond to COVID-19.
Individual agencies have issued the following information on their response to COVID-19:
Department of Energy
On March 19, 2020, DOE announced that it would fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its maximum capacity of 77 million barrels of American-made crude oil. In an initial step towards this end, DOE announced a solicitation for the purchase of an initial 30 million barrels and stated that additional solicitations will follow. Additional information on the solicitation is available here.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
FERC recently issued an order on its operations during the COVID-19 emergency, the details of which are available here.
United States Department of Agriculture
In areas of community spread of COVID-19, telework has been maximized at state staff offices, and many of FS’s essential activities, approvals, and field work are being accomplished remotely or in a manner that limits exposure. As of March 24, 2020, National Forests remain open; however, recreation services may be changed, suspended, or offered through alternate approaches. Local managers are tasked by FS to perform risk assessments for forest operations. Closure decisions will align with local city, county, and state actions to provide for human health and safety (i.e., quarantine, curfew, and other social restrictions). More information about National Forest operations and closures is available here.
Department of the Interior
On March 16, 2020, DOI’s Deputy Secretary Katharine MacGregor issued a memo directing DOI employees with signed telework agreements to telework until further notice. For non-telework eligible employees, the memo directs supervisors to implement staggered work schedules, social distancing, and other operational mitigation measures as suggested by the CDC to safely deliver mission-essential functions.
Fish and Wildlife Service
As of March 24, 2020, many FWS facilities remain open and operating during normal hours. Please find an up-to-date list of FWS closures, including Wildlife Refuges and Visitor Centers, here.
National Park Service
Many of the National Parks are altering operations or closing to the public to respond to state Gubernatorial and Mayoral COVID-19 emergency orders. Specific parks have been closing on a case-by-case basis, and the latest information about National Park operations and closures is available here.
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Information about the COVID-19 response resources available from BIA to Tribal Members is available here.
Bureau of Land Management
On March 19, 2020, BLM issued a notice waiving entrance fees at BLM recreation sites and national monuments until further notice. DOI’s Secretary David Bernhardt stated that “[t]his small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors across the 245 million acres of public lands managed by the agency.” The notice is available here
Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health authorities, however, BLM is temporarily restricting in-person public access to some visitor centers and public rooms at Oregon and Washington offices. BLM’s website directs members of the public to contact their local district office for additional information.
BLM has also suspended all meetings of its resource advisory councils and committees until further notice.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA is temporarily waiving observer requirements for vessels with Northeast fishing permits until April 4, 2020. NOAA’s COVID-19 related resources provide information for employees and contractors, which is available here.
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The USACE has closed many facilities outside of the National Capital Region, including its offices and visitors’ centers around the country. Further, USACE is limiting its regulatory program operations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. in response to COVID-19. Information about USACE’s facility closures and COVID-19 regulatory operations is available here.