NYS Attorney General Sues EPA Over Suspension of Environmental Enforcement

This afternoon New York Attorney General James, with a coalition of nine attorney generals, filed a lawsuit against Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging its new policy to stop enforcing requirements under a wide range of federal environmental laws due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.The lawsuit, which was filed today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, includes the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, and Vermont.

This lawsuit comes shortly after a letter was sent to the NYSAG from over 50 environmental, labor and community organizations, who urged for legal action after foundational environmental laws were suspended in March. 

“We are grateful for this courageous and necessary action taken by NYS AG James to protect the health of New Yorkers” said Rebecca Newberry, Executive Director of Clean Air Coalition of Western New York.There are over 350 regulated facilities in Western New York alone.  There are thousands of people who live next to large polluters who rely on EPA enforcement to protect our health.”

The EPA’s policy states that the federal government does not intend to take enforcement action against companies that violate provisions of environmental laws such as the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Safe Drinking Water Acts, provided that the companies link COVID-19 to their non-compliance. The lawsuit argues that this policy is overly broad, lacks transparency and accountability, and will result in higher pollution emissions by industry and corresponding negative impacts on public health and the environment.

“We’re grateful that AG James is once again standing up to Trump and defending New Yorkers. This sends a clear message to the White House and to polluters that using a public health crisis as an opportunity to poison our environment and communities will not be tolerated, Jonathan Bix, Executive Director of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson

Suspending federal laws that are put in place to protect public health will put more New Yorker’s lives at risk. A recent study of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found Coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in less polluted parts of the country. Further emissions from polluters in communities will exacerbate an already untenable public health problem in neighborhoods throughout the state. 

Attorney General James has shown that New Yorkers will not stand for the Trump administration’s callous disregard for the health and dignity of our communities. This is a historic day for all environmental justice communities throughout the nation who have long dealt with abuse, neglect and harm caused by corporations who put their profit lines over public health.  Attorney General James and her coalition of states who have joined this landmark lawsuit have defended the lives of thousands of poor and working class people during the COVID-19 crisis and should be applauded for their bravery and swift action,” said Emily Terrana, Organizer, Clean Air Coalition.

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