Until the late afternoon of Thursday, March 26, the Trump administration’s approach to environmental issues in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic was an ordinary scam, puffs of oil and gas and a regulation sleight of hand. As millions of people sheltered in place, the EPA continued its efforts to weaken automobile fuel efficiency standards. National parks were closed, but the Department of the Interior was leasing more public land for oil and gas development. The United States leads the world in COVID-19 infections, but the campaign to gut the National Environmental Policy Act has continued unabated. The measures were outrageous and outrageous, but sadly comparable during the most anti-environmental administration in US history.
Then the EPA upped its game by dropping a notice that for the duration of the pandemic, the agency would suspend enforcement of environmental laws. “The EPA generally does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification requirements in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause,” the order said. Such situations apparently include labor shortages and social distancing restrictions. The suspension is retroactive to March 13, and although it is said to be temporary, no clearer end date is specified.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said: “The EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes that the challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the against COVID-19 can have a direct impact on the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal requirements.” On Friday, insisting that “Trump’s EPA is acting responsibly during a pandemic,” he attacked the New York Times report his order:
FAKE NEWS: @NYT disseminates inaccurate information and misleads the public. That’s not what America needs right now.
TRUTH: The EPA is working hard to protect public health and the environment while providing a little flexibility during these extraordinary times. https://t.co/ZIPML7Jt0M
— Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator (@EPAAWheeler) March 27, 2020
The reaction from environmental groups has been ruthless. “Using a public health crisis to justify actions that will result in even greater threats to public health is unconscionable,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Action. “Unfortunately, coming from this malevolent president, that is not surprising.”
Daniel Estrin, General Counsel at Waterkeeper Alliance, noted, “At the same time it tells polluters not to worry about enforcement, the EPA continues to deny grassroots requests from the public to extend comment periods on the proposed rules. This double standard shows that this administration’s EPA continues to place more importance on helping polluting industries than on fulfilling its mission to protect human health and the environment.”
“As the country focuses on protecting public health and safety from COVID-19,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, “Donald Trump and Andrew Wheeler are exploiting this pandemic to legalize pollution. toxic”.
Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, once said, “You never want a serious crisis to be wasted. What I mean by that is that it’s an opportunity to do things that you couldn’t do before. As the United States suffers a crisis from Trump, his administration is seizing the opportunity it presents.