COVID-19 and environmental enforcement

COVID-19 and environmental enforcement

by Save The Bay’s advocacy team

No matter the cause, rollbacks on environmental regulations warrant a watchful eye
No matter the cause, rollbacks on environmental regulations warrant a watchful eye

On March 26, 2020, the Trump administration announced that regulated entities will not be fined for violating laws related to pollution prevention (such as monitoring and reporting discharges of pollutants) if the EPA determines that COVID-19 was the cause.

Although on its face this policy may make sense, we must watch how it is applied; it may, in fact, give companies a broad pass on complying with laws, leaving the public without critical information about pollution discharged into our waters, land and air.  Further, it is unclear how the EPA will be able determine if COVID-19 was the cause.


While the EPA enforces these laws in Massachusetts, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has chosen not to adopt the sweeping EPA policy. Instead, we have been advised that DEM intends to put the onus on companies to advise and inform DEM of key information, including but not limited to:


  • How current conditions related to COVID-19 are preventing compliance
  • The environmental impacts from noncompliance
  • Efforts taken to comply given the challenges
  • The length of time needed for relief
  • Actions that will be taken to return to full compliance.

Save The Bay applauds DEM’s approach. We also urge full transparency on how the policy is implemented. And, we will keep watchful eye on emerging developments throughout the Narragansett Bay and Little Narragansett Bay watersheds and the South Coast. After all, that is Save The Bay’s role: holding government accountable for protecting the Bay.

*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.


August 26, 2021

Dear Friends, Supporters and Community Members, 

At this time, Save The Bay’s facilities in Providence and Westerly remain closed to the public in response to COVID-19.

The Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport reopened Monday, July 5, with new hours and visiting procedures in place.

Save The Bay is offering volunteer and internship opportunities with new policies and procedures for the health and safety of all involved.

Our staff continues to protect and improve Narragansett Bay, working both remotely and on-site. If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone (401-272-3540) or email (, or on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.