Democrats are concerned that a temporary rollback of some environmental regulations will give companies “an open license to pollute.”
In a letter addressed Wednesday to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said the Trump administration “should be giving its all toward making our country healthier right now. Instead it is taking advantage of an unprecedented public health crisis to do favors for polluters that threaten public health.”
The House members are reacting to an announcement by the EPA in March that it would temporarily suspend enforcement of some civil violations. The EPA move came after pressure from the oil and gas industry, which sought a compliance break during the pandemic.
The lawmakers, who accused the EPA of “taking advantage of a global pandemic to advance an anti-environment and anti-climate agenda,” also called the decision a “moratorium.” They requested the EPA provide a briefing on the issue before the Committee on May 1.
An EPA spokesperson said the claims made by the committee are “false.”
“The EPA is not suspending enforcement of environmental laws during the pandemic and the temporary enforcement guidance does not allow any increases in emissions,” the agency said in an e-mailed statement. “The temporary enforcement policy is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules. We will continue to work with federal, state, and tribal partners to ensure that facilities are meeting regulatory requirements, while taking appropriate steps to protect the health of our staff and the public. Calling the policy a ‘moratorium’ only continues to amplify false information and misunderstanding for the public.”
The spokesperson went on to say that the measures are temporary “and will be lifted as soon as normal operations can resume, which may occur sooner in some locations than others. We take our environmental mandate to protect human health and the environment very seriously and will continue to carry it out during this time.”