Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with 13 attorneys general, today submitted a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denouncing the EPA’s March 26 memorandum that announced a nationwide policy limiting the civil enforcement of federal environmental laws during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The EPA’s policy puts our communities at risk and ignores the connection between air pollution and cardiovascular and respiratory conditions at a time when everyone should be taking extra precautions to protect their health,” Raoul said. “The public has the right to know when industry has stopped monitoring and reporting its pollution, and I urge the EPA to rescind this policy and continue enforcing federal environmental laws.”
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In the letter, Raoul and the coalition express concern with the EPA’s policy significantly curtailing enforcement of the nation’s bedrock environmental and public health laws. The coalition asserts that the agency cannot lose sight of its mission to protect public health and the environment, especially in the midst of a public health crisis.
Raoul and the coalition urge the EPA to rescind the new policy because it turns a blind eye to the impacts on communities of more pollution and lesser accountability.
On March 26, the EPA issued a policy entitled “COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program.” The policy, which applies retroactively to March 13, has no end date. The EPA states in the policy that it does not intend to take enforcement action against companies that violate existing reporting and monitoring requirements, provided that the companies draw a nexus between COVID-19 and their noncompliance. Raoul and the coalition argue that without any requirement to provide the EPA, states, tribes, or the public with notice of such noncompliance, fence line communities – often low-income and minority communities – could be exposed to harmful pollution without adequate warning. The policy also ignores the connection between air pollution and cardiovascular and respiratory conditions which may increase risk of serious harms – including premature death – for individuals who contract the COVID-19 virus.
Joining Raoul in the letter are the attorneys general of Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
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