EPA stops enforcing environment guidelines

Abigail McArthur-Self, Editor-in-Chief

At the end of March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), released a memo informing companies and businesses that they will not be enforcing environmental laws during the COVID-19 crisis. 

This has been described as a temporary measure, and the EPA has said that if there is imminent danger to public health, they will consider if they should intervene. This relaxation of enforcement is supposed to ease the economic struggle for businesses. It is also supposed to make it easier to protect workers from the virus, as Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA, believes it could be hard for companies to both protect workers and the environment in this situation. 

Environmental protection groups have raised concerns, fearing that this will endanger people and the environment both in the short and long runs. Although no specific dates were given for this change by the EPA, some businesses have begun exceeding regular limitations. According to the Guardian, Cynthia Giles — a former EPA administrator — and a number of other environmental advocates sent a letter to the EPA, saying that relaxing some regulations is understandable but the blanket abdication of responsibility the letter seems to represent is a risk for Americans. 

A major concern is the effect increased air pollution may have on industrial areas with high populations. Polluted air has been linked to respiratory problems, and COVID-19 can cause respiratory failure as well as more severe effects for those with pre-existing respiratory issues. Allowing higher air pollution than normal could put the individuals who live in the area at higher risk. 

It remains to be seen exactly what companies will decide to do and how states and cities may adjust to protect their citizens. In terms of the national stage, however, the EPA will not be enforcing their regular checks and limits on pollutants.