The EPA just suspended environmental rules indefinitely, citing coronavirus

An announcement from the EPA* effectively suspended environmental rules for organizations in the USA for an indefinite amount of time. The EPA's document claims that because the COVID-19 pandemic is constraining the abilities of groups normally regulated by the EPA, that those groups will not be subject to the same rules as normal. This "temporary policy" is in effect until the EPA says it's done.

What's this order do?

Per the announcement from the EPA: "In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request."

"This EPA statement is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future," wrote Cynthia Giles, former head of the EPA's Office of Enforcement, in a statement sent to The Hill.

"It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way 'caused' by the virus pandemic," wrote Giles. "And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was."

The EPA's document says that this policy is regarding "EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during this time." You can see the full document in PDF form over at Western Values Project right this minute. You can also see the document separated into JPG images in the gallery below.

For how long?

"The EPA will assess the continued need for and scope of this temporary policy on a regular basis and will update it if the EPA determines modifications are necessary." The policy goes into effect immediately, but is also retroactively applied back to March 13, 2020.

Further, the EPA suggested that they will "apply this policy to actions or omissions that occur while this policy is in effect even after the policy terminates."

Who is Andrew Wheeler?

*The EPA is currently headed by Andrew Wheeler. Andrew Wheeler is a former coal industry lobbyist. He worked with law firm Faegre Baker Daniels and acted to represent coal magnate Robert E. Murray. Wheeler has rallied against greenhouse gas emissions and the importance of climate change.

When asked about climate change on Fox News in March of 2019, Wheeler said: "Is climate change the existential threat? I don't see it as the existential threat, no. We have a lot of environmental threats. We have a lot of environmental problems. But we're working to address all of them." Wheeler was also criticized by the Union of Concerned Scientists as having a "breathtaking ignorance of science."