Citing Coronavirus, Trump EPA Halts Enforcement of Critical Key Environmental Laws

EWG: “Shameful evidence of disregard for public health”
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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, March 27, 2020

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration’s unprecedented move to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to suspend enforcement of critical environmental laws is shameful and further evidence of the administration’s utter disregard for public health, EWG said.

In a shocking move that has stunned former EPA officials, the agency will let the chemical, coal, petroleum, electric utility and other industries use “enforcement discretion” to determine for themselves whether they should be required to monitor and report air and water pollution discharges.

“Under the policy, EPA does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations” by industry, the agency said in a news release Thursday. As long as industrial operations, like chemical production facilities and coal-fired power plants, claim they cannot adhere to pollution control and monitoring requirements due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, they can ignore those environmental laws indefinitely.

The agency’s order, issued by Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for enforcement, says “facilities with environmental compliance obligations should act responsibly.”

In a tweet, EWG President Ken Cook said:

If companies “acted responsibly” we wouldn’t have needed EPA and environmental rules in the first place. But we did, and do, and this is a shameful, defining act of deregulation for the Trump administration that has made clear its view that we are NOT all in this together.

— Ken Cook (@EWGPrez) March 27, 2020

“Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to turn over pollution control laws to polluters further demonstrates the glaring reality that the Trump administration has absolutely no regard for public health,” Cook added. “At a time when all Americans’ health is at risk, giving polluters license to ignore regulations on emissions of toxic chemicals and air pollutants is reckless and irresponsible.”

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.