Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has joined a coalition requesting that a federal court force the EPA to halt its policy giving entities flexibility in adhering to environmental protection regulations.
Yesterday, Frosh joined eight other Attorneys General in filing a preliminary injunction motion seeking to halt the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) temporary policy that gives polluters and those responsible for tracking emissions enforcement discretion. Outlined in a March memo, EPA states that because of social distancing guidelines and staff shortages, they do not intend to seek penalties for entities that cannot comply with environmental protection regulations such as emission reduction, tracking, and reporting requirements, so long as the non-compliance is linked to hardship as a result of the crisis. This would also give states leeway in their enforcement efforts, but the Maryland Department of the Environment was quick to state that they would continue normal operations and only use discretion on a case-by-case basis, and only when necessary.
Frosh and other Attorneys General wrote to EPA in April expressing concern and asking for an end to the policy. After seeing no change in policy and receiving no response, in May the coalition filed suit challenging the policy’s legality. Yesterday, the coalition urged the court to halt the policy while it is under review to mitigate any negative effects. Since the memo outlining the policy was first released, the coalition has maintained that the policy is overbroad in giving blanket discretion, lacks transparency because it does not require entities to publish information on non-compliance, and will negatively affect both public health and the environment as a result.
“Trump’s EPA has announced that it will not do its job. We are asking the Court to order them back to work ,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Failing to enforce environmental regulations will harm public health, especially in those communities already disproportionately suffering from the effects of COVID-19.”
From the press release:
The coalition’s motion argues that the EPA failed to consider the potential impacts of increased pollution from industry’s noncompliance with monitoring and reporting requirements on public health. The results of this policy could be particularly troubling for communities located near industrial facilities. These communities, which are frequently low-income and minority, bear a greater burden from increased pollution than the general public. Importantly, the EPA has adopted the non-enforcement policy at a time when low-income and minority communities are also suffering disproportionately from COVID-19 and as emerging evidence increasingly shows that exposure to air pollution corresponds with more serious cases of COVID-19.
Prior Coverage on Conduit Street: