EPA Issues Unprecedented “License to Pollute” During Pandemic

Amidst a public health crisis, the agency will indefinitely suspend environmental protections that help keep our air and water safe.

Chemical plants dominate the landscape along the New Jersey Turnpike near Carteret, New Jersey.

Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping new policy Thursday that would allow industrial facilities to pollute with little fear of agency penalties during the COVID-19 crisis.

“This is an open license to pollute. Plain and simple,” says NRDC president Gina McCarthy.

“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.”

Normally, industrial facilities like power plants or chemical manufacturers are required to monitor and report their discharge of air or water pollution to the EPA, states, and public, but those facilities will now be allowed to regulate themselves for an unspecified period of time. Meanwhile, the EPA will not penalize industry for failing to monitor or report violations of pollution standards while the policy is in place. This will allow untold numbers of violations of pollution limits without either the regulators or the public knowing about them.

“We can all appreciate the need for additional caution and flexibility in a time of crisis, but this brazen directive is an abdication of the EPA’s responsibility to protect our health,” McCarthy says.

The move comes alongside reports that the Trump administration plans to move full speed ahead with its weakening of environmental protections in its fourth year, despite the pandemic.

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