Stand Up to Trump’s Dangerous EPA Enforcement Cuts

Clean Air Coalition Calls on New York Attorney General to Stand Up to Trump’s Dangerous EPA Enforcement Cuts

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a dramatic relaxing of environmental rules, citing the decision as a response to the COVID pandemic. The agency will now allow power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.

This announcement comes on the same day that President Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package that provides $500 billion in corporate bailouts; continuing this administration’s efforts to support corporations over communities.

According to the memo, the policy sets new guidelines for companies to monitor themselves for an undetermined period of time during the outbreak and says that the EPA agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements.

In order to operate a large industrial facility, companies must acquire permits to pollute. The limits on how much pollution a company is allowed to put into the air, water and soil, how often a company reports what they pollute, and how they measure the level of toxins are all set by the federal government. Companies self report to the enforcement agencies, and if emitting above the limit or if testing protocol isn’t consistent with regulation, they can be found in violation of the law, forced to make changes and/or pay fines. 

EPA reporting guidelines are vital for the health, safety and dignity of our communities and the environment. Reporting allows for the federal and state government, as well as community groups, to take swift action when necessary to remedy toxic emissions and accidents at factories, power plants and other industrial facilities regulated by environmental protection laws.

While this memo does not apply to companies already engaged in criminal action or the Superfund and RCRA corrective action programs, it will have a dramatic impact on the amount of pollution that companies will dump into our communities’ air, water and soil.

The order states that companies should self report if they break the law, but won’t face any consequences by doing so.  The memo states “In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.”

The memo also relaxes the requirements for companies that have entered into a settlement agreement or consent orders. Settlement agreements and consent orders are entered into if a company has already violated the law, and is either paying a fine or taking steps to correct the action. These corrections come with strict timelines and clear objectives. By removing penalties the EPA is removing any incentive for companies to clean up their act. 

Under this order, more people will die. Our membership is made up of people who live next to large polluters. With this order, the EPA will no longer use their full authority to hold polluters in check. To make our people ward off COVID-19 while burdening their bodies with more pollution is shameful, horrific, and further demonstrates that the Trump Administration would rather see poor and working class people die, than hurt the pocketbooks of his friends.” Rebecca Newberry, Clean Air Executive Director. 

It has been proven time and time again that when polluters do not have strict monitoring, reporting and enforcement standards, our communities suffer. According to the Toxic Release Inventory, there are well over 350 facilities in Western New York that are regulated under federal laws.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement actions have been vital to hold polluters accountable. Since the EPA’s enforcement actions in Tonawanda, there was a 92% reduction in the carcinogen benzene in the ambient air.

In the Seneca Babcock neighborhood in the City of Buffalo, the EPA partnered with the NYDEC to inspect and issue multiple Notices of Violation to Battaglia Demolition, a company that was operating with no permit and blanketing the community with silica dust, a known human carcinogen. This enforcement action was vital to initiate a New York State investigation, legal action, and the ultimate shutdown of the facility in 2017.

Clean Air is calling on New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, to respond to the EPA’s order. 

“It is the government’s job to protect us. The federal government is refusing to enforce the law that keeps polluters in check. Attorney General James has led efforts to protect New Yorkers from the Trump administration in the past. We encourage her leadership again now.” Jennifer Carman, Clean Air Coalition Board President. 

RSS 2.0 feed. Reply to post, or trackback.

Leave a Reply