In response to guidance issued by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance regarding enforcement discretion in light of COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued its own guidance. In its accompanying press release, DEQ takes a stern tone and makes clear that DEQ expects compliance with all environmental compliance obligations and permit limits, that the crisis does not “equal a free pass for the regulated community,” and that regulated entities should make every effort to comply.

Continue Reading Virginia Issues Enforcement and Compliance Guidance in Response to EPA Enforcement Discretion Guidance

California regulators have announced that the comment period for a recent proposal, Supplemental Guidance: Screening and Evaluating Vapor Intrusion, has been extended to June 1, 2020, and public workshops and webinars originally scheduled for April have been postponed until further notice.

Vapor intrusion occurs when contamination moves from groundwater and soil beneath a structure into the air, accumulating in occupied areas where they can result in safety hazards or health effects. Common vapor-forming chemicals include volatile organic compounds including trichloroethylene (TCE), mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), and certain pesticides. Testing for vapor intrusion is an important step in investigating a potential development site, and in ensuring the health and safety of existing residential and commercial buildings.


Continue Reading Update – New California Supplemental Vapor Intrusion Guidance Comment Period Extended, Trainings Postponed

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.


Continue Reading Update – California Agencies Issue Additional Guidance on Environmental Compliance During COVID-19 Emergency

Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) Susan Bodine issued guidance regarding OECA enforcement discretion in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) COVID-19 pandemic. EPA intends to focus its resources largely on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent threat to public health or the environment. The guidance, which is retroactively effective to March 13, does not have an end date but EPA commits to reviewing the policy regularly and to providing a seven day notice of its termination on OECA’s guidance page.

Continue Reading EPA Issues Enforcement Discretion Guidance to Address Compliance in Wake of COVID-19

California agencies are beginning to provide clarification and directives to guide regulatory compliance following local “shelter in place” orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Governor Gavin Newsom’s state-wide “stay at home” order issued on March 19, 2020. While the State Department of Public Health is taking the lead in coordinating the state-level response, other regulatory agencies responsible for essential services and facilities have begun to issue their first formal directives related to environmental compliance and safety.

The emphasis of regulatory directives thus far are clear: all requirements related to critical infrastructure remain in effect, with special provisions for immediate notification if there are circumstances or current government directives that could impede timely compliance.


Continue Reading Update – California Agencies Issue Guidance for Regulatory Compliance As COVID-19 Containment Orders Go Into Effect

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CFC) recently decided two cases related to flood events during Hurricane Harvey in Southeast Texas in 2017—one finding a taking by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for flood control management and allowing landowner recovery, with the other holding that no taking occurred during the same event. As the incidence of flooding events may become more prevalent and unpredictable in a changing climate, these two decisions provide guidance for dam operators, including hydroelectric project operators, that conduct flood management activities in cooperation with, and sometimes at the direction of, USACE or other governmental entities.

Continue Reading U.S. Court of Federal Claims Rules on Takings Claims Against Dam Owners Stemming from Flooding During Hurricane Harvey

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues across the U.S., it is important for companies to proactively address the potential disruptions to their compliance programs. Environmental compliance is often a boots-on-the-ground activity; but what happens when those boots are at home, can’t travel as needed, or can’t observe operations at the plant level?  Unprecedented staffing and operational issues associated with the coronavirus pandemic have the potential to cause significant gaps in environmental compliance programs. Staying ahead of those gaps is key to weathering these compliance challenges. Below we discuss some recommended strategies to maintain compliance.

Continue Reading Environmental Compliance in the Wake of the Coronavirus

On March 3, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its most recent proposed revisions to the federal Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule. The proposal, which EPA has coined “Part B” to its “Holistic Approach to Closure,” is a follow-up to the Part A proposal, which EPA published in November 2019. Part of a flurry of CCR-related activity, the Part B proposal comes just days after EPA issued its proposed federal CCR permit program.

As we previously reported, the purpose of EPA’s Part A proposal was to align the Agency’s regulations with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ August 2018 decision in USWAG v. EPA, 901 F.3d 414 (D.C. Circuit 2018). To that end, Part A proposed to (1) classify clay-lined surface impoundments as unlined, and (2) require all unlined surface impoundments to close.


Continue Reading EPA Issues Part B to its Holistic Approach to CCR Unit Closure Proposal

On February 20, 2020, Earthjustice, on behalf of a variety of nonprofit organizations, including the Sierra Club, brought suit against the United States Department of Defense (“DOD”), alleging that the DOD violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) in its decision to enter into contracts for the incineration of its unused stockpiles of firefighting foam. Save Our County, et al. v. United States Department of Defense, et al., 3:20-cv-01267 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 20, 2020). According to the complaint, the incineration of firefighting foam poses a threat to communities as the burning of the foam releases per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”), a group of chemicals found in firefighting foam that may be linked to certain adverse health effects. In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the DOD’s contracts violate NEPA because the DOD did not prepare an environmental impact statement prior to consenting to the incineration of the firefighting foam. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the incineration of the firefighting foam does not comply with certain regulations created by the NDAA that govern the incineration of PFAS-containing materials.

Continue Reading PFAS Litigation Continues as EPA Proposes Increased Federal Regulations

On February 20, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intent to publish a preliminary regulatory determination under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Publication will initiate a 60-day notice and comment period that represents the first step toward the adoption of Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) for PFOA and PFOS, two of the best-understood and most common compounds under the umbrella of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Continue Reading Safe Drinking Water Act: EPA to Issue Regulatory Determination for PFOA/PFOS