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 MarkeyEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid MORE (D-Mass.) condemned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — American Clean Power — Supreme Court to review power plant rule case EPA to consider tighter air quality standards for smog Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels 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 CarperDemocrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos Standoff scraps quick deal on Senate defense bill before Thanksgiving Manchin signals he's OK with Biden spending vote this year 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.