Trump has relaxed enforcement of emissions rules amidst the deadly spread of respiratory disease COVID-19, raising alarm around the added risk to public health due to pollution. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Andrew Wheeler is an ex-energy lobbyist, sparking questions around the extent to which industry is influencing the administration’s response to COVID-19.
On March 26, the EPA announced that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic it was allowing power plants, factories, and other facilities to self-determine whether they were meeting legal requirements for reporting air and water pollution. The EPA further announced it would not issue fines for violating these reporting requirements. This “sweeping decision” to suspend enforcing “a range of health and environmental protections” has brought sharp criticism, with Congress and state and local officials decrying EPA’s use of the coronavirus “as an excuse…to relax enforcement of federal environmental laws designed to protect public health and safety.”
CREW has requested communications between EPA and businesses affected by the now-relaxed pollution reporting requirements on the enforcement change.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the Trump administration seemed to be using the coronavirus to push forward President Trump’s policy goals without clear regard for public health research or science; earlier this month, Trump also pushed forward an array of anti-asylum measures.
The public needs to know how these rule changes increase threats to our public health, which is already compromised by the current pandemic, and whether the public health consequences were considered. The requested records will shed light on to what extent industry and lobbyists influenced the EPA’s decision to prioritize Trump’s anti-environmental policy goals over public health in the midst of this public health crisis.