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Could administrative exemptions spare you from environmental fines?

As corporations navigate their shifting environmental compliance obligations in the new political environmental, it is important to understand that administrative remedies may also be an option.

For example, the Trump administration may have impacted the focus of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA recently granted requests to exempt three California aquifers from the stringent regulations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) submitted the aquifer exemption applications to the EPA on behalf of several oil companies. Notably, the DOGGR also missed an internal deadline for closing 1,650 oil industry injection wells identified as violating water-protection laws. Those actions have prompted some commentators to question whether the DOGGR has undergone a state-level policy shift.

Although it may too early to determine whether a state-level policy shift is underway, today's story is an important reminder that exemptions may be available to companies concerned about their environmental compliance.

Our California law firm has been advising clients about their obligations under federal and state water laws for years. Our clients have been from both the private and public sectors. Our water law practice has addressed issues affecting surface waters, streambed alteration agreements, dredge and fill permits, and wastewater discharge disputes.

Regardless of an entity's mission statement, our attorneys work hard to keep our clients in compliance with their legal and regulatory obligations. In some cases, it may make sense to negotiate a transaction that transfers or alters water rights. In other cases, litigation may be necessary to protect a client's business or water rights.

Source: San Diego Free Press, "Trump Exempts 3 Calif. Oil Fields from Water Protection at Gov. Brown's Request," Dan Bacher, Feb. 17, 2017

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