Internal watchdog to review EPA's coronavirus response

Internal watchdog to review EPA's coronavirus response
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An internal government watchdog will begin a review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) response to the coronavirus pandemic and how the virus has affected the agency's operations.

A memo from Deputy EPA Inspector General Charles Sheehan dated Thursday states that his office will look into how the coronavirus outbreak has affected the agency’s "programs and operations, regulatory and enforcement missions, and mandated activities." 

He added that it would also review measures taken by the EPA to address the pandemic. 

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“We will also assess how, in the face of these impacts, the EPA has conducted and is conducting its oversight and programmatic responsibilities to protect public health and the environment,” Sheehan wrote.

The announcement follows significant criticism from Democrats and environmentalists over a temporary EPA policy unveiled earlier this year under which the agency might not seek penalties against companies that don’t monitor their pollution.

The policy was announced in late March, but the agency said it was being implemented retroactively to take effect March 13.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee last month requested a briefing from the agency on the policy, which the EPA has defended as being on a “case-by-case” basis. 

In response to the inspector general’s office review, an EPA official told The Hill in an email that the agency “is continuing our regulatory work while doing everything we can to help address environmental and public health issues surrounding COVID-19.”

“We look forward to working with the OIG on this matter,” the person said, referring to the office of the inspector general.