Trump's letting companies use coronavirus as an excuse to pollute more


The EPA's 'temporary policy' has no end date, even as Donald Trump pushes for the nation to return to normal by Easter.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would suspend enforcement of civil environmental laws due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Environmental Protection Agency's administrator called it a "temporary policy" of "discretion."

The agency said it will not "seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations."

"EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements," Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. "This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment."

The move comes at the request of the oil and gas industry, which asked the administration last week to cut back on enforcement as the nation deals with the pandemic.

It comes with no end date, even as Trump pushes for a quick end to social distancing and state and local shutdowns of schools and nonessential businesses.

"The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success," he tweeted on Wednesday. "The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!"

Trump has said that he wants everything to be back to normal by April 12, despite public health experts' warnings that a premature move would make the outbreak much worse.

Cynthia Giles, who oversaw the agency's enforcement during the Obama administration, told the Hill that the action is "essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future."

"It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way 'caused' by the virus pandemic," she said. "And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was."

Giles also noted that the agency's statement "does not even reserve EPA's right to act in the event of an imminent threat to public health."

Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to ensure "crystal clear clean water and clean air."

But his administration has significantly rolled back environmental regulations, sometimes going even beyond the loosening of rules that the industry asks for.

A November 2019 analysis by the Associated Press found the EPA's polluter prosecutions and convictions were already at a 25-year low under Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.