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Markey says EPA administrator should apologize to minorities for coronavirus response

Markey says EPA administrator should apologize to minorities for coronavirus response
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Mass.) condemned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEnvironmentalists aim to use EPA guidance removal rule as tool despite opposition OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Drilling, climate stakes high in Tuesday's presidential vote | Trump orders report examining impacts of fracking ban | Crop industry wants EPA to boost lab inspections for pesticide research EPA sued over coal plant wastewater rollback  MORE on Wednesday, saying the Trump administration official owes communities of color an apology for his handling of air pollution regulations leading up to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Shame on you, Mr. Administrator. You should be apologizing to people of color in our country for what you are doing. Shame on you,” Markey said during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meeting.

Markey’s comments were in reference to studies showing that areas with poor air quality, which EPA studies have found are more likely to be found in communities of color, have higher death rates from coronavirus. Since the pandemic began, the EPA has proposed or finalized seven rules that would impact air quality, according to data compiled by the committee's ranking member, Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (D-Del.).

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“Every American is being asked to work together to help our communities get through this crisis, but you are taking action to the likely harm of the most vulnerable amongst us. Your decisions make this pandemic worse” said Markey, an original sponsor of the Green New Deal, on Wednesday.

“This is unconscionable. History will remember you for the environmental injustice you have perpetrated in the name of the EPA. You are turning the EPA to every polluter's ally. Those polluters are harming the health of the most vulnerable people in our country right now as their lungs are being attacked by coronavirus. So shame on you.”

Wheeler defended the agency’s record, saying the EPA is working to decrease air pollution.

“There are certainly some environmental justice communities around the country where the air quality is much worse than other areas, but there's also air quality problems in other communities that are not brown or black. But I think every American, regardless of where they live in this country, deserves to breathe clean air and drink clean water," he said.