Following California Governor Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order in response to the COVID-19 emergency, California’s State Water Resources Control Board and the nine California Regional Water Quality Control Boards confirmed this week that they consider compliance with orders, permits and regulations to be an “essential function” under the order.  The announcement does clarify that there is a mechanism for regulated entities to seek specific relief when a Water Board order or requirement cannot be timely met because it is inconsistent with governmental directives relating to COVID-19.  The regulated entity must notify the applicable Water Board via email at the provided email addresses and include:

  • the specific Water Board order, regulation, permit, or other requirement that cannot be timely met,
  • the inconsistent COVID-19 directive or guideline,
  • an explanation of why the responsible entity cannot timely meet the Water Board order or requirement, and
  • any action that the entity will take in lieu of complying with the specific Water Board order or requirement.

The Water Board has committed that its staff will do their best to respond within 24-48 hours.  The full notice is available on the Water Board’s COVID-19 update page:


Mr. Sanders leads Baker & McKenzie’s U.S. environmental litigation practice. He represents both domestic and non-U.S. corporations before federal, state and administrative courts in environmental, class action, mass tort and product liability litigation, government enforcement, permitting and criminal proceedings. He counsels companies with respect to compliance with CERCLA, RCRA, CWA, TSCA, OSHA and state environmental and product regulations. Mr. Sanders advises multi-national and domestic corporations on environmental, health and safety statutory requirements and legal risks with respect to products sold or marketed in the United States, including responding to product liability claims and recalls. He also advises clients on environmental, health & safety risks and liabilities in transactions.


Jessica Wicha is a counsel in the Firm’s North American Environmental Practice Group. Her practice covers the spectrum of environmental legal matters, including regulatory compliance counseling, enforcement defense, and environmental aspects of complex business transactions. She strives to provide practical solutions to her client's environmental legal challenges, including day-to-day compliance issues, remediation matters, emergency spills and releases, and regulatory enforcement. Ms. Wicha also has extensive experience advising on environmental transactional matters across a wide range of industry sectors and global jurisdictions. This work includes scoping and coordinating environmental due diligence, managing environmental consultants, advising clients on environmental liability and risk allocation issues and tools, drafting and negotiating environmental contractual language, and coordinating permit transfers.