By Waterkeeper Alliance
Conservation groups today filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration over the Environmental Protection Agency’s suspension of monitoring and reporting requirements for major pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic. This follows confirmation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service that the EPA failed to contact the wildlife agencies to discuss how the policy will comply with the Endangered Species Act.
The EPA’s policy, set forth in a March 26 memorandum, suspends monitoring, reporting and enforcement under several key environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Emergency Planning and Community Right‐to‐Know Act.
“Clean air and clean water are critical to people and wildlife and yet the Trump administration is doing everything it can to give polluters free rein,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA is supposed to protect us all from pollution and this memo allows them to walk away from their duties. It’s just wrong.”
The EPA’s policy allows oil and gas companies, along with other polluting industries, total discretion to determine whether they will comply with monitoring and reporting requirements. The EPA has not even required regulated entities to “catch up” with missed monitoring or reporting, so it will have no way of knowing whether its policy resulted in adverse impacts to imperiled species and their habitat, as the Endangered Species Act requires.
The supplemental notice letter, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc., and Riverkeeper, Inc., states that EPA failed to even initiate “emergency consultation” procedures with the wildlife agencies, to ensure that actions are taken to minimize the effects of any emergency response to COVID-19.
The EPA has also failed to respond to FOIA requests for all communications with the American Petroleum Institute and others that resulted in EPA’s March memorandum, and has failed to provide a list of polluters that have used the new policy to avoid monitoring and reporting requirements during the pandemic.
“EPA’s latest free pass to polluters—which comes in the form of its non-enforcement policy—is a total abdication of its core responsibility to enforce federal environmental laws, and of its mission to protect human health and the environment,” said Daniel E. Estrin, Waterkeeper Alliance’s general counsel and advocacy director. “The result will be more pollution of our water, air, and land, and we will pay an enormous price for EPA’s failures as imperiled species across the country will be wiped out even faster.”
“The Hudson River’s endangered shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon species have long borne the brunt of pollution, overfishing and habitat loss, and EPA’s guarantee not to enforce environmental laws now jeopardizes their very existence,” said Hudson Riverkeeper Paul Gallay. “The pandemic is no excuse for the Trump administration to abdicate its duty to protect our air, water, communities, and environment.”