For Immediate Release, March 27, 2020


Hannah Connor, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 681-1676,
Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project, (443) 510-2574

Environmentalists Object to Broad EPA Waivers for Polluters During Coronavirus Crisis

Response to Trump Administration’s Plan to Relax Public Health Protections for Oil Refineries, Other Industries

WASHINGTON— A coalition of environmentalists sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency objecting to a new Trump administration policy, released this week, that relaxes environmental compliance rules for petrochemical plants and other big polluters during the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s disgusting that the Trump EPA refuses to pause in its push to gut laws keeping our air and water safe but is happy to take a break from enforcing them,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which was one of 23 groups to sign the letter. “Instead of stepping up and freeing Americans from the worry of having their utilities cut off during this horrible pandemic this administration is freeing many of those same utilities to increase the pollution they release.”

“It is not clear why refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that continue to operate and keep their employees on the production line will no longer have the staff or time they need to comply with environmental laws,” said the statement, which was written by Eric Schaeffer of the Environmental Integrity Project, former director of civil enforcement at the EPA.

Co-signers of the letter included Luke Metzger, executive director, Environment Texas; Cynthia Giles, former EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance; Mike Tidwell, executive director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network; Phillip Musegaas of Potomac Riverkeeper Network; and a dozen others.

The environmental organizations voiced their concerns in response to an announcement that the Trump administration EPA will “provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions.”

“Excusing the potential release of excess toxic air pollutants and other pollution that exacerbates asthma, breathing difficulty, and cardiovascular problems in the midst of a pandemic that can cause respiratory failure is irresponsible from a public health perspective,” the letter states.

The Environmental Integrity Project released a report last year documenting the sharp drop in environmental enforcement during the Trump administration.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.