On April 15, 2020, Cal/EPA, the umbrella agency consisting of the Air Resources Board (“CARB”), the Department of Pesticide Regulation (“DPR”), the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, (“CalRecycle”), the Department of Toxic Substances Control (“DTSC”), the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”), and the State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”), issued a press release addressing enforcement of environmental non-compliance during the COVID-19 crisis.
California agencies have been critical of U.S. EPA’s approach to enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the press release, Cal/EPA notes that California’s enforcement efforts will continue and further reiterates California’s concerns with U.S. EPA’s enforcement discretion guidance expressly stating that Cal/EPA will “fill any enforcement gaps left by the U.S. EPA’s decision to reduce environmental oversight.”
In addition, Cal/EPA warned that it would be particularly diligent about environmental compliance in areas where there is a high rate of respiratory disease and multiple environmental burdens – linking environmental justice terminology to the apparent correlation between these factors and COVID-19 susceptibility.
While the press release declines to provide any clear indication that enforcement discretion will be exercised, it does indicate that time-limited and specific requests for enforcement discretion may be considered. Such requests must be communicated to the applicable Cal/EPA entity and will be considered on an expedited fashion.
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