News & Politics

EPA Suspending Enforcement of Environmental Regs Because of Pandemic

Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, prepares to testify during the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on "Examining EPA's Agenda: Protecting the Environment and Allowing America's Economy to Grow" on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

One of the ironies of government is that the Environmental Protection Agency is probably the most overbearing, overprotective, and over-the-top federal agencies in existence. But it has also created vital regulations that have cleaned our water and air and protected us from rapacious businessmen who don’t care if they poison us or not.

It points to a fact of life: some regulations are necessary for our health and safety.

But give the EPA an inch and they take a light year. Perhaps the best example of that is the “Waters of the USA” regulations that would have made every puddle, wet spot, stream, creek, river, and lake subject to EPA regulation. It was a nightmare for farmers and businesses and the Trump administration was right to deep-six the law.

But the EPA has become the latest federal agency to “never let a crisis go to waste.” The agency has temporarily suspended most environmental regulation because of the pandemic.

The Hill:

The temporary policy, for which the EPA has set no end date, would allow any number of industries to skirt environmental laws, with the agency saying it will not “seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations.”

Critics are up in arms. Obama’s EPA enforcement chief, Cynthia Giles, referred to the EPA’s action as “an abdication” of responsibility.

“This EPA statement is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future. It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way ’caused’ by the virus pandemic. And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was,” she wrote in a statement to The Hill.

The statement by EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler doesn’t explain much.

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

Just what are those “challenges”? Environmental protection costs money and cuts into profits, silly. If these polluters want to get in line for a bailout, I’m all for it. But there appears to be no earthly reason why the EPA should turn a blind eye to enforcing regulations that protect our water and air, even in a national emergency.

I suppose this is what you get when you replace anti-business regulators with anti-agency regulators. Neither type is useful.