WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Monday that its COVID-19 “non”-enforcement policy will end on August 31. The decision follows a three-month campaign by Environment America Research & Policy Center and others urging the agency to rescind the policy, which suspended the EPA’s enforcement of key environmental protections, including reporting of pollution, during the pandemic.
In response, John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America Research & Policy Center, made the following statement:
"The EPA’s decision to terminate its pandemic polluter loophole should be a great relief to all Americans, especially those living in the shadows of refineries, chemical plants and other large polluters. However, our relief at the announcement comes with some caution. Instead of recognizing the urgent need for stringent enforcement in the midst of a pandemic, the EPA’s decision keeps the loophole open for two more months -- putting our health and environment at needless risk.
“We depend on clean air and clean water, but since March, the EPA’s reckless COVID-19 enforcement policy has put our air, water and health at the mercy of polluters. The whole framework of the Clean Air Act depends on monitoring and reporting, without which we have no idea what facilities are releasing into the air we breathe.
“In response to this pandemic polluter loophole, thousands of Americans, more than one hundred organizations, and several state attorneys general have called on Congress or the courts to compel the EPA to return to enforcing key environmental protections. Monday’s announcement suggests those voices are finally being heard.
“But we must remain vigilant. Because the EPA framed its decision in terms of COVID-19 re-opening, we need to make sure that the agency fulfills its mission of enforcing protections for our air and water, even after August 31. Finally, we must ensure that states that took their cue from the EPA now reverse course and enforce local protections for our environment.”