EPA: COVID is reason not to protect public health from polluters

Statement by Earthworks’ Senior Policy Counsel Director Aaron Mintzes

Background:
After industries, including oil and gas industry trade association the American Petroleum Institute, petitioned the Trump Administration requesting waivers from compliance from various federal agencies’ oversight due to the COVID crisis, on March 26, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was not penalizing violations or requiring monitoring for the indefinite future. Given the same industries made similar requests of the Interior Department, we would be unsurprised if Interior made a similar announcement in the near future.

Statement:
“If polluting industries can operate, they can comply with public health rules. And since the Department of Homeland Security declares extractive industry workers essential, so is compliance with public health and safety safeguards. That’s what the law means or used to before the Trump Administration.

Although the COVID crisis is new, there’s nothing new about extractive and other industries’ requests for weaker oversight.

What is new is the Environmental Protection Agency, created to protect human health and the environment, deciding a public health crisis is a reason not to protect health.

A government for the people should protect the people, not the polluters.” — Earthworks’ Senior Policy Counsel Aaron Mintzes

FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • EPA OECA Guidance Memo
  • Department of Homeland Security guidance on the essential, critical infrastructure workforce
  • Environmental Integrity Project et al. letter to EPA OECA Chief Bodine, March 26, 2020.
  • Letter from American Petroleum Institute to President Trump requesting waivers on compliance from various federal agencies.
  • E&E News: “Interior under pressure to ease enforcement on public lands” (paywalled), March 26, 2020