Editor’s note: on Thursday news broke that the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. is suspending enforcement of regulations due to the coronavirus outbreak.
This comes several weeks after China waived their own environmental regulations in order to re-start their economy as fast as possible, raising fears of a “pollution backlash.”
From a DGR analysis, this is predictable. Within a culture that is dependent on destroying the planet, the needs of the economy—and of the rich—will always be prioritized over the needs of the natural world.
It’s obvious that environmental regulations are failing to protect the planet. That’s partly because, as the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) often states, regulatory law is written by and for corporations. Nonetheless, regulations do mitigate and slow some of the worst harms. Now, even that flimsy barrier is being dismantled.
We expect this. As Derrick Jensen wrote in Premise 20 of the book Endgame, “Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.”
Featured image: Public domain photo. Air pollution kills roughly 7 million human beings annually.
‘Holy Crap This Is Insane’: Citing Coronavirus Pandemic, EPA Indefinitely Suspends Environmental Rules
The Environmental Protection Agency, headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, announced on Thursday a sweeping and indefinite suspension of environmental rules amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, a move green groups warned gives the fossil fuel industry a “green light to pollute with impunity.”
Under the new policy (pdf), which the EPA insisted is temporary while providing no timeframe, big polluters will effectively be trusted to regulate themselves and will not be punished for failing to comply with reporting rules and other requirements. The order—applied retroactively beginning March 13, 2020—requests that companies “act responsibly” to avoid violations.
“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” Wheeler said in a statement. “This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.”
Cynthia Giles, former head of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement under the Obama administration, told The Hill that the new policy is “essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future.”
“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,” said Giles. “And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was.”
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