EPA Corrects the Record on Temporary Compliance Guidance

EPA_Office_of_Public_Engagement.jpgEPA Corrects the Record after Reckless Reporting on Temporary Compliance Guidance
WASHINGTON — The mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment, and during this time of unprecedented public health concerns, that mission is even more critical. On March 26, EPA released a temporary policy regarding the agency's enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This temporary policy is not a license to pollute.

We strongly encourage the press to actually read EPA’s Temporary Policy before repeating reckless propaganda about it. Instead of including factual information about the policy, outlets such as E&E NewsThe Hill , the AP, and  the New York Times are relying on sources who falsely claim that the policy provides a blanket waiver of environmental requirements or creates a presumption that the pandemic is the cause of noncompliance.

Here are some of the facts that have been conveniently left out of the press narrative: The policy says that EPA will not seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting requirements, if, on a case-by-case basis, EPA agrees that such noncompliance was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Regulated parties must document the basis for any claim that the pandemic prevented them from conducting that routine monitoring and reporting and present it to EPA upon request. This action was necessary to avoid tying up EPA staff time with questions about routine monitoring and reporting requirements and instead allow EPA to focus on continued protection of human health and the environment. 

The policy does not say that the COVID-19 pandemic will excuse exceedances of pollutant limitations in permits, regulations, and statutes. EPA expects regulated entities to comply with all obligations and if they do not, the policy says that EPA will consider the pandemic, on a case-by-case basis, when determining an appropriate response. Further, in cases that may involve acute risks or imminent threats, or failure of pollution control or other equipment that may result in exceedances, EPA’s willingness to provide even that consideration is conditioned on the facility contacting the appropriate EPA region, or authorized state or tribe, to allow regulators to work with that facility to mitigate or eliminate such risks or threats. 

EPA has been inundated with questions from both state regulators and the regulated community about how to handle the current extraordinary situation where contractors are not available because they cannot travel, state and local governments are imposing stay at home orders, and the number of people who have contracted COVID-19 and are in quarantine is rising. EPA developed the Temporary Policy to allow EPA to prioritize its resources to respond to acute risks and imminent threats, rather than making up front case-by-case determinations regarding routine monitoring and reporting. The development of the policy was a group effort, involving multiple calls and with and drafts shared among EPA staff and managers, both career and political, at both headquarters and in the regions.

It is important to note EPA expects regulated facilities to comply with regulatory requirements, where reasonably practicable, and to return to compliance as quickly as possible, once the COVID-19 threat is over. Additionally, the policy makes clear that EPA expects operators of public water systems to continue normal operations and maintenance during this time, as well as required sampling, to ensure the safety of vital drinking water supplies.

The measures in this policy are temporary and will be lifted as soon as normal operations can resume, which may occur sooner in some locations than others. We take our environmental mandate to protect human health and the environment very seriously and will continue to carry it out during this time. 

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EGLE Establishes Process for Handling Enforcement Discretion Due to COVID-19

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has issued guidance on discretionary enforcement and created an email inbox (EGLE-EnforcementDiscretion@mi.gov) to accept requests for regulatory flexibility from entities who face unavoidable noncompliance directly due to the COVID-19 emergency.  In response to those requests, EGLE may consider extending reporting deadlines, waiving late fees, and otherwise exercising enforcement discretion.

It is important to note, regardless of the method of submittal, requests for regulatory flexibility are subject to state Freedom of Information Act provisions.  These records can be made available by emailing egle-foia@michigan.gov.

EGLE's Discretionary Enforcement Guidance:

EGLE recognizes that Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s actions to sustain and protect life by reducing the spread of COVID-19, including her state of emergency declaration and Stay Home, Stay Safe order, may require some regulated entities to deviate from normal business operations.  

During the COVID-19 response, regulated entities are expected to maintain compliance with environmental regulations and permit requirements to protect Michigan’s environment and public health. EGLE understands that disruptions to standard operations may create challenges for regulated entities to meet some legal obligations.

To address these challenges, EGLE has established an email box (EGLE-EnforcementDiscretion@mi.gov) to accept requests for regulatory flexibility from entities who face unavoidable noncompliance directly due to the COVID-19 emergency.  In response to those requests, EGLE may consider extending reporting deadlines, waiving late fees, and otherwise exercising enforcement discretion.

Requests must include:

  • The specific regulatory requirement in question, including identification of any permit, order, or agreement that applies to the entity’s obligations;
  • A concise statement describing the circumstances preventing compliance and how the compliance issue is impacted by the COVID-19 response;
  • The steps taken to avoid the compliance issue, including whether you contacted EGLE for assistance and why the compliance issue was not reasonably avoidable;
  • The anticipated duration of the compliance issue and whether it may create an acute risk or imminent threat to human health or the environment (but emergency situations should be reported to the PEAS Hotline at 800-292-4706);
  • Mitigative measures planned to protect Michigan’s environment and public health during the period in which the requirement cannot be met; and
  • A central point of contact for the regulated entity, including an email address and phone number.

Requests made to EGLE-EnforcementDiscretion@mi.gov will be monitored continuously during regular business hours.  EGLE will work diligently to review and respond to requests in a timely manner.

Where alternative compliance options are authorized by EGLE, regulated entities must maintain records adequate to document activities related to the noncompliance and details of the regulated entity’s best efforts to comply.

A request to the enforcement discretion inbox that clearly identifies an applicable permit, order, or other agreement with compliance obligations will meet the notice or reporting requirements for noncompliance in those governing documents provided the request meets any timing and substantive requirements of the relevant governing document.  

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CISA Adds Additional Occupations to its Advisory List of Critical Infrastructure Workers

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released an additional guidance document, featuring an updated advisory list of critical infrastructure workers. These are mainly minor changes and expansions on the roles covered. The state is evaluating these changes, but have not made a determination yet if they will be incorporated into the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Order. 

Energy
• Workers supporting the energy sector, regardless of the energy source (including but not limited to nuclear,
fossil, hydroelectric, or renewable), segment of the system, or infrastructure the worker is involved in, or who are
needed to monitor, operate, engineer, and maintain the reliability, safety, environmental health, and physical
and cyber security of the energy system.
• Energy/commodity trading/scheduling/marketing functions, who can't perform their duties remotely.
• IT and OT technology for essential energy sector operations including support workers, customer service
operations; energy management systems, control systems, and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition SCADA
systems, and energy sector entity data centers; cyber security engineers; and cyber security risk management.
• Workers supporting the energy sector through renewable energy infrastructure (including, but not limited to
wind, solar, biomass, hydrogen, ocean, geothermal, and/or hydroelectric), including those supporting
construction, manufacturing, transportation, permitting, operation/maintenance, monitoring, and logistics.
• Workers and security staff involved in nuclear re-fueling operations.
• Providing services related to energy sector fuels (including, but not limited, petroleum (crude oil), natural
gas, propane, natural gas liquids, other liquid fuels, nuclear, and coal), supporting the mining, processing,
manufacturing, construction, logistics, transportation, permitting, operation/maintenance, security, waste
disposal and storage, and monitoring of support for resources.
• Environmental remediation/monitoring, limited to immediate critical needs technicians.
• Manufacturing and distribution of equipment, supplies, and parts necessary to maintain production, maintenance,
restoration, and service at energy sector facilities (across all energy sector segments).

Petroleum industry:
• Workers for onshore and offshore petroleum drilling operations; platform and drilling construction and
maintenance; transportation (including helicopter operations), maritime transportation, supply, and dredging
operations; maritime navigation; well stimulation, intervention, monitoring, automation and control, extraction,
production; processing; waste disposal, and maintenance, construction, and operations.
• Workers for crude oil, petroleum and petroleum product storage and transportation, including pipeline,
marine transport, terminals, rail transport, storage facilities and racks and road transport for use as end-use fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and heating fuels or feed stocks for chemical
manufacturing.
• Petroleum and petroleum product security operations center employees and workers who support
maintenance and emergency response services.
• Petroleum and petroleum product operations control rooms/centers and refinery facilities.
• Retail fuel centers such as gas stations and truck stops, and the distribution systems that support them.
• Supporting new and existing construction projects, including, but not limited to, pipeline construction.

Natural Gas, Natural Gas Liquids (NGL), Propane, and other liquid fuels
• Workers who support onshore and offshore drilling operations, platform and drilling construction and
maintenance; transportation (including helicopter operations); maritime transportation, supply, and dredging
operations; maritime navigation; natural gas and natural gas liquid production, processing, extraction, storage
and transportation; well intervention, monitoring, automation and control; waste disposal, and maintenance,
construction, and operations.
• Transmission and distribution pipeline workers, including compressor stations and any other required,
operations maintenance, construction, and support for natural gas, natural gas liquid, propane, and other
liquid fuels.
• Natural gas, propane, natural gas liquids, and other liquid fuel processing plants, including construction, maintenance, and
support operations.
• Natural gas processing plants workers, and those that deal with natural gas liquids.
• Workers who staff natural gas, propane, natural gas liquids, and other liquid fuel security operations centers,
operations dispatch and control rooms/centers, and emergency response and customer emergencies (including
leak calls)operations.
• Drilling, production, processing, refining, and transporting natural gas for use as end-use fuels, feed stocks for chemical manufacturing, or use in electricity generation.
• Dispatch and control rooms and emergency response and customer emergencies, including propane
leak calls.
• Propane gas service maintenance and restoration, including call centers.
• Propane, natural gas liquids, and other liquid fuel distribution centers.
• Propane gas storage, transmission, and distribution centers.
• Supporting new and existing construction projects, including, but not limited to, pipeline construction.
• Ethanol and bio fuel production, refining, and distribution.
• Workers in fuel sectors (including, but not limited to nuclear, coal, and gas types and liquid fuels)
supporting the mining, manufacturing, logistics, transportation, permitting, operation/maintenance, and
monitoring of support for resources.

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Three-Month Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency – For States and CLP Holders Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles

Three-Month Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency –
For States and CLP Holders Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles

March 28, 2020

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Grant of waiver.

SUMMARY: FMCSA grants a three-month waiver from certain regulations applicable to commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), as defined in 49 CFR 383.5, in interstate and intrastate commerce. The Agency has initiated this action in response to the President’s declaration of a national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b) related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

DATES: This waiver is effective March 28, 2020 and expires either on June 30, 2020, or the revocation of the President’s declaration of national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b) related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), whichever is sooner.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Ms. Nikki McDavid, Chief of the Commercial Driver’s License Division, Office of Safety Programs, 202-366-0831, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

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Governor Whitmer Issues Executive Order Suspending Required April 1 Gasoline Vapor Pressure Reduction

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-31, suspending the April 1 requirement for lower vapor pressure gasoline. The order takes effect immediately and expires on May 31st, 2020.

To ensure the health and safety of the public, gasoline supplies must remain available to support essential functions during the COVID-19 pandemic. This public health emergency has caused an unexpected oversupply of higher volatility gasoline, which is occupying bulk fuel storage systems and preventing many distributors from shifting their supplies to lower volatility gasoline that meets vapor pressure requirements for sale in Michigan beginning April 1, 2020.

Stocks of winter-blend gasoline, which is sold in Michigan prior to April 1, are ample and available to supplement the under supply of April-compliant gasoline stocks during this emergency.

The Executive Order, EO 2020-31 can be found here.

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Water Levels Projected 1-5 Inches Above Record High Levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron

Across the state, high water levels have already caused millions of dollars in damage to private property and public infrastructure, including roads and Michigan State Parks. Michigan’s agricultural industry has been hit particularly hard, but the state’s farmers aren’t alone, other industries may soon feel the pressure of rising waters.

On Thursday, March 26th, EGLE hosted a virtual town hall to inform residents about the impacts of high water levels and the state's response. 

Key Points from the Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District Water Level Forecast. 

  • The Great Lakes Basin has seen the wettest 1-year, 2-year, 3-year, 4-year, and 5-year periods in 120+ years.
  • Water levels on all Great Lakes started 2020 higher than 2019.
  • With the exception of lakes Michigan and Huron, all other Great Lakes are forecast to peak below 2019 levels. 

Water levels on Lakes Huron and Michigan are expected to be 1-5 inches above record high levels over the next 6 months. 

  • February water levels were 17 inches higher than February 2019 level.
  • Water level on Huron/Michigan will begin their seasonal rise in April.
  • Levels are projected to peak in July (Setting new records).

Click Here to view the full webinar, featuring presentations from the Army Corps of Engineers, EGLE, MDOT, DNR and more. 

What additional resources are available for concerned residents?

EGLE has a full webpage dedicated to providing the public and local officials with information and helpful tools. Visit Michigan.gov/HighWater for more information or visit michiganoilandgas.org/blog for helpful fact sheets on everything from water level predictions to recommendations for protecting your property.

High Water Level Information for the Great Lakes, EGLE fact sheet

Current and forecast Great Lakes water levels, US Army Corps of Engineers

Living on the Coast: Protecting Investments in Shore Property on the Great Lakes

Great Lakes Shorelines Information for Permit Applicants

Great Lakes Shoreline Protection Contractors List 

Frequently Asked Questions about Shore Protection during Great Lake High Waters

Contact the Environmental Assistance Center (EAC) at 800-662-9278 or EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov, if you have questions or need assistance. The EAC is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Tell the operator that you are calling about shoreline erosion and you will be transferred to a field staff person.  After hours, please leave a message and someone will get back to you the next business day.

 

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US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Emergency Loan Guide and Checklist

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued a Small Business Emergency Loan Guide and Checklist to help small businesses and self-employed individuals prepare to file for an emergency loan in the wake of Covid-19.

The Chamber PDF helps answer,

1. Who is Eligible

2. What lenders will be looking for, and what they won't be looking for

3. How much you can borrow

4. How the loan will be forgiven 

5. And next steps for small businesses to take 

The administration soon will release more details including
the list of lenders offering loans under the program.

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U.S. EPA May 1, 2020 Fuel Waiver Concerning Summer Gasoline

EPA Announces Steps to Protect the Availability of Gasoline during COVID-19 Pandemic

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced several steps the Agency is taking to protect the Nation’s gasoline supply in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

EPA intends to provide additional flexibility to the marketplace to transition from winter-grade, high volatility gasoline to summer-grade low vapor pressure gasoline. Due to the steep fall-off in gasoline demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, gasoline storage capacity is limited and more time is needed to transition the distribution system in order to come into compliance for the summer driving season. EPA will temporarily waive the summer low volatility requirements and blending limitations for gasoline.

Without a waiver of the summer gasoline requirements, parties upstream of retailers and wholesale purchasers would be required to stop selling the winter gasoline sitting in their storage tanks on May 1, 2020, which would prevent them from loading summer gasoline into the storage tanks, resulting in a shortage of gasoline. By waiving the low volatility and blending limitations through May 20, 2020, EPA will ensure a steady supply of gasoline. EPA will continue to monitor the adequacy of gasoline supplies and, should conditions warrant, may modify or extend this waiver at a later date.

Additionally, EPA does not intend to unilaterally revisit or rescind any previously granted small refinery exemptions issued for prior compliance years. As noted in the temporary policy on COVID-19 Implications for EPA's Enforcement and Assurance Program, issued yesterday, EPA is focused on protecting our employees and ensuring continued protection of public health and the environment from acute or imminent threats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, investigating and initiating enforcement actions against small refineries that were previously subject to an exemption is a low priority for the agency. EPA intends to develop an appropriate implementation and enforcement response to the Tenth Circuit’s decision in RFA v. EPA once appeals have been resolved and the court’s mandate has been issued.

Finally, in a forthcoming action, EPA intends to extend the RFS compliance date for small refineries to provide them with additional flexibility.  

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Reminder: Employers must determine which of their workers are "critical infrastructure workers" and inform their employees they’ve been deemed as such

Per Executive Order 2020-21, employers have through March 31st to verbally communicate with employees that they wish to consider critical Infrastructure workers (essential staff). An oral designation is sufficient through March 31st, after which, employers must provide "critical infrastructure employees" with written designation, this can be in the form of a letter, by email, or post on the company website. 
There is not a requirement under Executive Order 2020-21 to carry credentials or paperwork with you while they travel to and from the work site. While the Administration does not require employees to carry such written designation on their person while they travel to and from the work site, we recommend that you encourage them to do so.
 
A written designation can be fairly basic and the state has not issued any requirements for content of the written designations.  I recommend including the following;
  • Employee Name
  • Employee Critical infrastructure worker designation
  • A brief description as to why the company has determined the employee is a "critical infrastructure worker"(ie. why they're essential to ensure safe and continued operations).
  • The steps the company is taking to ensure employee safety, or links to additional safety guidance.
  •  Employer signature.
  • Contact information. 
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Hassle-free Grocery Delivery and Pickup Services

A recent Lansing State Journal Article detailed how shoppers can utilize grocery delivery and curbside pickup at the state’s larger grocery chains. As these options may not be available in every zipcode, you may also want to check with local grocers on shopping services. Many larger grocery chains use services like Shipt and Instacart to provide delivery to customer’s homes, in addition to offering online shopping and curbside pickup at stores around the state.

By directly using Shipt, customers can have items from CVS, Petco, Office Depot, Office Max, Meijer and Target delivered to them. 

Instacart delivers from Sam's Club, Costco, Aldi, CVS, Meijer, Kroger, Petco, Fresh Thyme, Better Health, Gordon Food Service and Target. 

*Please Note that delivery and pick up is not available in every zip code. 

Meijer

Meijer offers grocery delivery and pickup at the store. Pickup costs $4.95 and delivery is $9.95. No membership is required for either option and there is no minimum for orders. 

Groceries can be picked up or delivered as soon as in one hour from your order, but due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay at home order, delivery slots are scarce. 

A Shipt shopper will be filling both delivery and pickup orders. They'll let you know where and when to meet them to pick up your order. 

You must be home to accept the delivery of your order. Shoppers can not purchase tobacco, prescription medicines, propane tanks or lottery cards.

Shop here.

Kroger

Kroger will deliver groceries for $9.95. Orders can only be paid for with credit or debit cards. Cash, checks, gift cards and government benefits are not accepted. 

Kroger gives shoppers the option for their order to be left at their door, instead of having to be home for the delivery. 

Grocery pick up at the store is free. Arrive at any time during your chosen slot to pick up your groceries. You can schedule a pick up time up to three days in advance. Once there, call the number on the sign in the grocery pickup parking area and someone will bring your order out to you. 

Shop here.

Click Read More for additional information from Aldi, Target, and Walmart

Read more
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