As reported previously, California agencies are providing clarification and directives to guide regulatory compliance following Governor Gavin Newsom’s state-wide “stay at home” order issued on March 19, 2020. More specific guidance has now been issued by the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) for Public Water Systems, and by the South Coast Air Quality Management District for all regulated entities.

Notably, although EPA has announced that enforcement discretion will be exercised in cases where routine compliance is not reasonably practicable, the Agency recognizes the authority of states and tribes to determine their own enforcement policies. Thus, California-regulated companies also must track how California agencies are approaching compliance during COVID-19 to ensure ongoing compliance.

Drinking Water Safety. The State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) issued a statement on March 25 reiterating that drinking water safety is a top priority, and that Public Water Systems must fully comply with all regulatory requirements. The Board urged “those working in the water sector” to be “flexible and collectively work toward solutions to accomplish the essential tasks and maintain the essential services to which we have committed and of which our communities so critically depend upon.”

The SWRCB also provided recommendations to Public Water Systems for best practices in responding to COVID-19, including coordination with local Emergency Operations Centers and Public Health Departments, planning to maintain staffing capacities and to adopt methods to ensure efficient use of limited resources; measures to ensure adequate stocks of essential supplies, including chemicals and materials; reviewing and updating emergency response and notification plans; and planning for cash flow issues.

Under the directive issued Friday, March 20, all regulated entities must provide immediate notice if it becomes apparent that a Board order or requirement cannot be met due to government directives or guidelines related to COVID-19. Notices must include specific information, and must be sent to the correct agency official, with responsibility for the relevant program or division. Instructions and a list of contacts is available on the Board website.

South Coast Air Quality Expedited Permitting. The state’s largest regional air quality regulator, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, has announced that they will be prioritizing and expediting the permitting process for businesses and organizations that are changing operations or repurposing efforts to aid the effort to address supply issues related to the COVID-19 crisis. Entities that may qualify should send an email with “COVID-19 Permit” in the subject line to The email should include:

  • Equipment and process descriptions, including a specific description how the project is critical to the COVID-19 response;
  • Facility name, Facility ID (if available), and facility address;
  • Contact name and phone number;
  • Flow diagram and process rates;
  • Operating schedules; and
  • Air pollution control equipment and stack/exhaust emissions data.

The South Coast measures provide support in the context of ongoing regulatory enforcement. California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols has issued a statement that, although the agency has taken action to protect the health and safety of the public and employees that may result in temporary delays, CARB regulations “continue to be in effect and deadlines apply.”

State and local agencies in California will continue to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, and we will provide relevant updates. For more information on changes in environmental compliance and policy affecting businesses and regulated entities with operations or interests in California, contact Angela Levin ( or Louise Dyble (