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Groups Sue EPA Over Suspending Pollution Rules During Pandemic


Thursday, August 20, 2020   

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Conservation groups are asking a federal judge to make the Environmental Protection Agency enforce pollution controls.

They're suing the agency this week in the wake of its decision this spring to not enforce certain environmental laws.

Citing COVID-19, the EPA suspended monitoring, reporting and enforcement of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and others.

Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the change has led hundreds of companies, including some along the Connecticut River, to apply for pandemic waivers.

"We've seen examples of wastewater treatment plants and sewage treatment plants, of organic chemical manufacturers, where the outflow goes to waterways that are inhabited by endangered species, such as green and Atlantic sturgeon," Margolis said.

The EPA says companies need more leeway to deal with the constraints imposed by the coronavirus emergency, and has promised to resume enforcement of environmental laws starting in September.

The Endangered Species Act allows for emergency modifications, but requires the EPA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service; something the lawsuit contends was not done.

Margolis said the policy of non-enforcement amounts to a free pass for polluters.

"And there's certainly some evidence that this policy was passed because of pressure from corporate entities, including oil and gas companies that potentially see this pandemic as a way to avoid environmental regulation," Margolis said.

The lawsuit calls on the agency to conduct a study to determine if pollution has, in fact, increased as enforcement actions have dropped off.

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