Using the global pandemic, EPA indefinitely suspends environmental protection laws

Usually, companies are required to report the levels of pollution they release into the air or water to hold them accountable and to avoid over polluting.

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Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a sweeping and indefinite suspension of environmental rules and fines amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. Companies will now effectively be allowed to regulate themselves and will no longer be punished for violating air or water pollution laws. 

Environmental groups and activists worry this gives the fossil fuel industry too much freedom. According to Common Dreams, under the new policy, which the EPA insisted is temporary while providing no timeframe, big polluters will effectively be trusted to regulate themselves and will not be punished for failing to comply with reporting rules and other requirements. The order—applied retroactively beginning March 13, 2020—requests that companies “act responsibly” to avoid violations. 

“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,” writes EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Parker Bodine. 

Usually, companies are required to report the levels of pollution they release into the air or water to hold them accountable and to avoid over polluting. 

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements. This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment,” says EPA head and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler. 

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