Late Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new policy that would suspend enforcement of key provisions of our nation’s environmental laws during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The decision came on the heels of requests from the oil and gas industry and others seeking exemptions at this time.
David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment, made the following statement in response:
"The EPA’s decision to stop enforcing key provisions of our environmental laws puts Pennsylvania’s air, water, and health at the mercy of polluters. Our cornerstone environmental protections like the Clean Air Act depend on monitoring and reporting. Without this monitoring, we have no idea what facilities are releasing into the air we breathe.
“This is particularly true with oil and gas industry operations. Refineries release millions of pounds of air pollution -- including leaks -- that would go undetected without stringent monitoring requirements. Fracking operations across the state release harmful emissions at every stage of the process, from drill pads to pipelines and waste pits-- sometimes in close proximity to child care centers, nursing homes, and even hospitals.
“Moreover, under this reckless new policy, the EPA could also let facilities off the hook for actual instances of excessive pollution in light of “circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic.” Such provisions constitute an open invitation to pollute.
“As our nation struggles to contain the coronavirus, health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and the public cares even more deeply about the air we breathe and the water we drink. If EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will not rescind this policy immediately, we urge Congress to exercise its oversight authority to ensure the safety of our air and water.”
PennEnvironment is a citizen-based, statewide environmental advocacy organization working to ensure clean air, clean water, and protecting Pennsylvania’s great natural heritage. For more information about this and other PennEnvironment projects, visit www.PennEnvironment.org.