CalEPA’s new policy allowing limited regulatory relief strays from U.S. EPA “both in its lack of specificity and its approach to the regulated community,” according to the environmental law firm Kings and Spaulding.
Led by Secretary Jared Blumenfeld, CalEPA issued a statement on April 15 saying it would continue to take action on complaints related to environmental noncompliance during the COVID-19 crisis. The agency said it would also “fill any enforcement gaps left by the U.S. EPA’s decision to reduce environmental oversight” and continue investigating even "routine" requirements, prosecuting when necessary
CalEPA did recognize that some stakeholder industries, like agriculture, would need additional “compliance assistance” during the pandemic. The agency acknowledged some deadlines could be extended.
The law firm points out that the statement on deadline extensions does not come with any specific guidance on how to request that relief. U.S. EPA, on the other hand, provides clear steps for this. CalEPA has also not elaborated on how it promises to fill EPA's enforcement gaps either, according to the firm.
Before the statement was released, a coalition of agricultural trade groups had been urging the governor to delay procedures on developing new regulations until at least 30 days after the emergency order has been lifted. Environmental groups were pushing back on that request. In the meantime, CalEPA departments and boards have continued advancing a number of ambitious proposals for expanding regulations on Central Coast water quality, clean trucks and pesticide restrictions.