Environmental Protection Agency Punts Environmental Protection Responsibility Amid COVID-19

Two days ago, March 26th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would be suspending its enforcement of key environmental laws. The press release can be found here and states, “EPA is announcing a temporary policy regarding EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic…For example, under the policy EPA does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations that are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic but does expect operators of public water systems to continue to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies.” The temporary policy change, which has no termination-date, can be found here.

Under the policy change, “the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.”

The EPA’s core mission, according to their own website, is to “protect human health and the environment.” Its mission is not to appease large industries in times of crisis to open the door to increased polluting activities. We understand the strains COVID-19 is placing on everyone, but EPA’s legal responsibility is to enforce environmental laws; COVID-19 should not be an excuse to ignore the agency’s jurisdiction.

Natural Resources Defense Council President and CEO, Gina McCarthy, had this to say on EPA’s policy: “This is an open license to pollute. Plain and simple. The administration should be giving its all toward making our country healthier right now. Instead it is taking advantage of an unprecedented public health crisis to do favors for polluters that threaten public health.”

EPA’s spokeswoman, Andrea Woods, said, “It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules. For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis.”

No one wants to see people harmed more by Coronavirus, but increasing the threat of polluting our environments and clean water seems shortsighted, especially when big corporations are already getting $550 billion of relief from the Coronavirus Response Bill.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please leave them in the comment section!

Featured Photo: Jeremy Koreski

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