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May 13, 2020
Contact: Tom Lalley

Coalition of State Attorneys General Sue EPA Over ‘Nonenforcement Policy’

AGs argue that the policy is overly broad, lacks transparency and accountability, and endangers public health and the environment.

Washington, D.C. —  New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a coalition of nine state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy issued on March 26 that suspended monitoring and reporting requirements under a range of environmental laws. The policy, which is retroactive to March 13 and will remain in effect indefinitely, offers “No Action Assurance” to oil refineries, chemical plants, power plants and other regulated facilities.
In their complaint, the AGs say that the EPA exceeded its authority when, “rather than exercising enforcement discretion as authorized by law,” the agency issued a “broad, open-ended policy that gives regulated parties free rein to self-determine when compliance with federal environmental laws is not practical because of COVID-19.” The AGs add that the EPA “failed — in the midst of a public health emergency — to consider the impacts of relaxing [environmental monitoring and reporting] obligations” despite the agency’s long-standing recognition that those requirements “protect public health by informing communities of pollution hazards and deterring industry noncompliance with pollution limits.”
The AGs also point out that “the nonenforcement policy’s blanket, prospective waiver of compliance monitoring and reporting requirements mandated by federal environmental statutes is likely to result in less monitoring and reporting by regulated industries” and that these requirements “are not mere paperwork exercises — they are bedrock obligations that are fundamental to the successful implementation of these laws.”
“The Trump Administration cannot give industries the green light to ignore critical environmental and public health laws, especially during a public health crisis,” said AG James. “The EPA’s non-enforcement policy puts our already damaged public health in danger by freely allowing pollution from big corporations. There has never been a more important time to prioritize the health of our communities, and we will not stop fighting for the health and safety of all Americans.”
“The Trump Administration is trying to use the current public health crisis to sweep environmental violations under the rug,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “What’s worse, the Administration is doing so even as evidence grows that communities exposed to air pollution are at increased risk from coronavirus. Today, we’re pushing back against the EPA’s regressive policy. This is 2020, not 1920.”
“EPA is inviting industries to pollute our air and water. It is never a good time to back away from enforcing laws that protect the environment and public health. Doing so in the midst of this pandemic is particularly reckless,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
“We must remain vigilant in protecting our environment,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “The EPA should do its job. If not, Vermont will continue to protect clean air and clean water.”
“We cannot allow EPA to use COVID-19 as an excuse to shirk their responsibilities to enforce critical environmental laws and regulations,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. “Many of these laws and regulations are aimed at keeping our air cleaner and are directly tied to cutting down on many of the respiratory conditions that could make people more susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19. While our country battles a virus that disproportionately affects individuals who have respiratory conditions, the federal government should ramp up enforcement of these policies, not pull back.”

The attorneys general of California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia and Vermont joined AG James in filing the suit.



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.
For more information, visit our website