Late Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released 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.
Megan Severson, state director for Wisconsin Environment, made the following statement in response:
"The EPA’s decision to stop enforcing key provisions of our environmental laws puts our air, water, and health at the mercy of polluters. The whole framework of the Clean Air Act depends on monitoring and reporting, without which 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 fugitive emissions or leaks -- that would go undetected without stringent monitoring requirements. Fracking operations across the country involve several emission-releasing components including drill pads, compressor stations, 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.”
Wisconsin Environment is dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. www.wisconsinenvironment.org