EPA faces third lawsuit after suspending enforcement of pollution monitoring

EPA faces third lawsuit after suspending enforcement of pollution monitoring
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a third lawsuit over its policy to suspend penalties for companies that stop monitoring their pollution outputs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The temporary policy, for which the EPA has set no end date, would allow any number of industries to skirt laws that require companies to track their emissions, with the agency saying it will not “seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations.”

States and other environmental groups have already sued over the March 26 memo, arguing that the EPA is abdicating its duty to enforce environmental laws, leaving unknown amounts of pollution flowing into the air and water.

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The notice of intent to sue sent Wednesday by the Center for Biological Diversity offers a different legal angle, arguing the memo violates the Endangered Species Act by risking harm to both imperiled animals and their habitat.

“Allowing the policy to apply indefinitely—with no sunset provision or discussion of the circumstances under which the policy would be revoked—provides an opportunity for regulated entities (and the Trump administration) to exploit the current epidemic to allow unfettered pollution and hence harm to protected species in the absence of the safeguards,” the organization wrote in its notice to the EPA.

The suit is set to be filed in 60 days.

The EPA did not immediately respond to request for comment on the lawsuit but has argued its policy is necessary as the agency was being overwhelmed by requests from companies to suspend monitoring pollution amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

Companies are expected to “comply with regulatory requirements, where reasonably practicable, and to return to compliance as quickly as possible,” the agency wrote in a release announcing the change. Companies must document when they suspended monitoring and explain why COVID-19 was the cause.

But environmentalists fear the damage will have already been done.

The states suing over the memo asked the court for a preliminary injunction on Monday, arguing the memo is “greenlighting industry to pollute more and care less.”