COVID complications cause EPA rollbacks



Amidst coronavirus pandemic, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler has relaxed certain policies to ease the strain on factories.

Sophia Van Beek, Copy-Editor

During the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put a pause on environmental laws’ enforcement, allowing companies to pollute the air or water without having to pay sanctions. The current EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler noted that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be difficult for companies to adhere to clean air and water laws while simultaneously protecting workers, according to The Guardian.  For now, the EPA is taking a more relaxed position and allowing companies to operate regardless of EPA restrictions. 

Wheeler said, “This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.”

Essentially, due to the strain the coronavirus might put on companies, the EPA is acknowledging they may need to ignore certain environmental policies to sustain themselves and adequately protect workers. As long as the companies claim their violations are due to the virus, they won’t face punishment. 

This position has upset environmental activists and former EPA officials, who claim it could do more harm for public health than help. Some believe that the Trump administration is taking advantage of the crisis to achieve their initial goal of gutting environmental protections. 

Additionally, there is a concern that an excess of air pollution in certain areas may harm the respiratory systems of nearby citizens and/or factory workers. Air pollution would only weaken the lungs and breathing of individuals who get the coronavirus, which attacks the respiratory system. Considering there are more factories in low-income and minority communities, who are already at a higher risk of infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control, this becomes an issue of class and race. 

However, it is important to acknowledge that air pollution has greatly decreased in recent months, both in America and across the globe, according to The Washington Post. This may be due to the fact that people are traveling less; however, this environmental change will only last as long as social distancing will. 

This policy was released amidst environmental rollbacks the Trump administration’s EPA had already been finalizing in the past few months, including plans to roll back stream and wetland protections, weaken fuel efficiency in cars, remove laws limiting mercury pollution in coal plants, or to exclude climate change from infrastructure consideration.