EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will rescind its controversial policy allowing companies to skip monitoring their pollution by the end of the summer, the agency wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
The policy, unveiled in a March 26 memo in an effort to help companies reduce regulatory burdens during the coronavirus, alerted companies they would not face penalties for failing to monitor their pollution emissions as required under a host of environmental laws.
EPA said it would terminate the policy August 31, bringing to a close a directive that was previously listed as temporary but with no set end date.
“Recognizing that there will be a period of adjustment as regulated entities plan how to effectively comply both with environmental legal obligations and with public health guidance … EPA has established a termination date for the Temporary Policy of August 31, 2020,” the agency wrote in a letter to lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Lawmakers on a number of committees had pressured EPA to quickly end the policy, arguing the agency had no way of knowing how much pollution might be emitted into the air or water without sufficient monitoring.
“This policy had no business being put into effect, but fortunately it will be coming to an end soon. We demanded a firm end date because we had feared that the administration would not commit to one otherwise, and might attempt to keep this policy in place indefinitely,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-M.N.) said in a statement.
The letter defended the policy at length, arguing that a number of other programs help the EPA monitor spills, leaks, and emissions.
“The burden is on the regulated entity to prove to EPA that compliance is not reasonably practicable due to COVID-19,” Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, wrote in the letter, adding later that the policy did not appear to be widely used by industry.
“Moreover, given the continued submission of discharge monitoring reports, it appears that COVID-19 has not had a significant impact on routine compliance monitoring and reporting.
The agency has faced numerous lawsuits over the memo from both environmental groups and nine states.
“During a pandemic that is hitting people with heart and lung disease the hardest, it is senseless to push forward a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy for polluters that will allow them to make our air and water dirtier without warning or repercussion. This policy benefits polluters and polluters alone—and all at our expense,” Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) President and former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement in April as the group sued alongside 14 other environmental groups.
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