FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2020
Contact: Tom Lalley
Tom.Lalley@nyu.edu
202-997-0899


Fourteen State Attorneys General Denounce EPA’s Suspension of Environmental Enforcement

Policy threatens health and environmental protection at a time when COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting Americans who suffer from diseases exacerbated by air pollution.

Washington, D.C. New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 14 state attorneys general in submitting a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly urging the agency to rescind a policy announced on March 26 that suspends monitoring and reporting requirements under a range of federal environmental laws during the coronavirus pandemic. While the AGs found it appropriate for the EPA to consider the impacts that coronavirus may have on businesses’ ability to comply with environmental laws, they warned that “the agency cannot — in the midst of a public health crisis — lose sight of its mission to protect public health and the environment.” The AGs letter follows a letter sent by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to the EPA on April 9 expressing “serious concerns” with the agency’s move to give “wide berth for pollution to go unmeasured and unaccounted for during this critical time.”
 
The EPA’s new policy, which is retroactive to March 13 and will remain in effect indefinitely, offers “No Action Assurance” to facilities it deems “essential critical infrastructure,” which could include oil refineries, chemical plants and power plants. In their letter, the AGs caution that the policy leaves states, tribes and the public without a way to know when an environmental regulation has been violated, potentially leaving many communities at risk of exposure to harmful pollution without warning. The AGs added that “this is made more troubling by EPA’s statement in the policy that it may forego enforcement even in situations where a polluter’s noncompliance presents an imminent threat to public health or the environment.”
 
The AGs also noted that the EPA’s policy “ignores the connection between air pollution and cardiovascular and respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma), which may increase risk of serious harms—including premature death—for individuals who contract the COVID-19 virus.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 presents a significantly higher risk to people with respiratory diseases such as asthma that are exacerbated by industrial pollution.
 
The attorneys general of Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin joined New York in sending the letter.

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About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
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