EPA Relaxing Enforcement of Environmental Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it will temporarily rollback enforcement of environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For weeks several industries including oil and gas have asked the federal government to relax regulations. The industries argue that they are experiencing worker shortages, and that compliance with what they deem non-essential regulations is inhibiting their ability to distribute fuel. They specifically ask for leniency toward testing and reporting requirements. In response the EPA issued a memo outlining a temporary policy for handling non-compliance with standard regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Citing travel and social distancing restrictions, the Agency announced it will not be enforcing regulations as long as violators document their non-compliance and, upon review, the Agency deems it to be a result of the ongoing health crisis. The Agency also indicated it would take into account the COVID-19 situation when examining state compliance.

From the EPA memo:

In general, 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 will continue State Review Framework reviews, and other state program oversight, as practicable, taking into consideration priority work in response to COVID-19.

Environmental groups voiced strong opposition to the EPA’s decision, arguing that the Agency’s decision will have long-term consequences.

From coverage by CNN:

“This is an open license to pollute. Plain and simple,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator under former President Barack Obama and now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Trump administration, McCarthy said, “is taking advantage of an unprecedented public health crisis to do favors for polluters that threaten public health.”