​Executive Order on COVID-19 Exempts Critical Infrastructure Workers

On March 19 Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 ordering all California residents to “stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors….” Our clients in the energy and water sectors have asked how the latest Executive Order affects their staffing, management and operations. While the Executive Order is restrictive on most individuals, it expressly recognizes the need to preserve the operation of critical infrastructure, including electric, gas and water utility services. We provide a brief summary and links below. Please call an ESHD attorney with your specific questions.

Executive Order N-33-20 directs residents to follow the Order of the State Public Health Officer, which exempts individuals who are needed to maintain continuity in 16 critical infrastructure sectors. These sectors and exempted workers are described in the March 19, 2020 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response. The CISA Memorandum emphasizes that critical infrastructure workers “have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.” The initial list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers provided with the CISA Memorandum identifies workers who conduct a “range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing management functions, among others,” and include the energy, water and wastewater industries. The CISA Memorandum emphasizes that the list is not intended to be exhaustive, and that state and local officials and critical infrastructure industry partners should “use their own judgment” in determining how to ensure continued services and functions, while balancing public safety. The list will be updated as the national response to COVID-19 evolves.

The Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce List includes the following, by sector:


  • Workers who maintain, ensure, or restore the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power, including call centers, utility workers, reliability engineers and fleet maintenance technicians;
  • Workers needed for safe and secure operations at nuclear generation;
  • Workers at generation, transmission, and electric blackstart facilities;
  • Workers at Reliability Coordinator (RC), Balancing Authorities (BA), and primary and backup Control Centers (CC), including but not limited to independent system operators and regional transmission organizations;
  • Mutual assistance personnel;
  • IT and OT technology staff – for EMS (Energy Management Systems) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, and utility data centers; Cybersecurity engineers; cybersecurity risk management;
  • Vegetation management crews and supporting traffic workers;
  • Environmental remediation/monitoring technicians;
  • Instrumentation, protection, and control technicians.

Water and Wastewater:

Employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure, including:

  • Operational staff at water authorities;
  • Operational staff at community water systems;
  • Operational staff at wastewater treatment facilities;
  • Workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling or monitoring;
  • Operational staff for water distribution and testing;
  • Operational staff at wastewater collection facilities;
  • Operational staff and technical support for SCADA Control systems;
  • Chemical disinfectant suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection;
  • Workers that maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting water and wastewater operations.

Natural Gas:

  • Natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines, including compressor stations;
  • Underground storage of natural gas;
  • Natural gas processing plants, and those that deal with natural gas liquids;
  • Natural gas security operations center, natural gas operations dispatch and control rooms/centers natural gas emergency response and customer emergencies, including natural gas leak calls;
  • Drilling, production, processing, refining, and transporting natural gas for use as end-use fuels, feedstocks for chemical manufacturing, or use in electricity generation.

Public Works:

  • Workers who support the operation, inspection, and maintenance of essential dams, locks and levees;
  • Workers who support the operation, inspection, and maintenance of essential public works facilities and operations, including bridges, water and sewer main breaks, fleet maintenance personnel, construction of critical or strategic infrastructure, traffic signal maintenance, emergency location services for buried utilities, maintenance of digital systems infrastructure supporting public works operations, and other emergent issues;
  • Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
  • Support, such as road and line clearing, to ensure the availability of needed facilities, transportation, energy and communications;
  • Support to ensure the effective removal, storage, and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste.

We are here to support our clients in this confusing and difficult time. Please call if you have questions about the above or other matters.

Contact: Jeff Harris, Andy Brown, Brian Biering, Lynn Haug