Chesapeake Bay area congressional representatives have written to the region’s governors urging them to continue environmental enforcement and provide updates on future plans.
Members of congress are joining a growing list of individuals concerned with EPA’s decision to relax enforcement of environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, members of congress including eight from Maryland’s delegation wrote a letter addressed to D.C’s Mayor and the Chesapeake Bay region’s six governors, asking that they continue to protect the Bay by enforcing environmental regulations despite leeway from the EPA. The letter also calls for governors to publicly release updated enforcement plans.
From the letter:
“The vitality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is contingent upon compliance with statutory pollution limitations. EPA’s decision to refrain from enforcement action against entities’ failure to comply with their obligations under federal law, federal permits, EPA administrative orders and EPA-related judicial consent decrees abdicates its duty to “protect human health and the environment”. During the worst public health crisis in a century, we expect EPA to prioritize its core mission of protecting public health and our environment.”
In March, EPA issued a highly controversial memo explaining that the Agency does not expect to seek penalties for polluters that do not comply with pollution tracking and reporting requirements during the COVID-19 crisis – granted the entity can link the noncompliance to staffing challenges resulting from the crisis. Environmental groups were quick to signal their disapproval of the move. State AGs wrote to the EPA asking that they reconsider the policy, and yesterday a coalition filed suit in U.S. District Court challenging EPA’s authority to waive enforcement.
The Maryland Department of the Environment has previously stated that it would for the most part continue regular enforcement, but also exercise discretion when needed.
Prior coverage on Conduit Street: