(Washington, D.C. – April 10, 2020) EPA should allow the American public to see records that relate to a controversial decision to relax pollution enforcement during the new coronavirus crisis, according to Environmental Defense Fund.
EDF filed a request for those records last night under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“Air pollution is unhealthy, and granting waivers to allow more pollution will make Americans more unhealthy. That’s always a big concern, but especially now,” said EDF attorney Rosalie Winn. “People have a right to know what EPA is doing to protect public health, and to make sure the new coronavirus is not being used as an excuse to pollute our air. If companies are not complying with health and environmental safeguards, communities need to know.”
EPA recently announced a widespread relaxation of inspections and enforcement of environmental protections because of the pandemic. So far, the agency has refused to disclose the number of requests it has gotten for waivers of environmental protections, and has not said when – or if – it will disclose that information.
EDF requested all correspondence between EPA and outside parties about:
· The impact of the virus on regulated entities’ ability to comply with environmental or health standards
· Requests for enforcement or compliance relief
· Notifications that a regulated entity will fail to comply with environmental compliance obligations
Quickly making these records public would empower communities to hold polluters accountable and protect themselves — including their most vulnerable populations — from increased pollution. EDF’s request covers all records beginning March 1, 2020.
EPA’s decision to grant waivers to polluters is especially concerning because new research shows a possible link between worse air pollution and higher death rates from the new coronavirus. Air pollution can cause or worsen underlying conditions, like asthma and other lung diseases, that may make people especially vulnerable to the virus.
“EPA has a duty to protect public health,” said Winn. “That should mean more swift enforcement of pollution limits during this crisis – not less.”
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