In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new policy that suspends enforcement of key provisions of our nation’s environmental laws during the coronavirus pandemic. The new policy let companies off the hook for monitoring or reporting their pollution in light of “circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic.” The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) followed suit, announcing limits to its enforcement of the Clean Water Act in July.
Our bedrock environmental laws, like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, rely on companies to regularly monitor and report their own pollution. The EPA uses monitoring and reporting data to enforce environmental protections when industry violates the law. Even when the government fails to hold polluters accountable, this data allows ordinary citizens to take their own actions, like public pressure campaigns or lawsuits.
Some damage has already been done. So far, 352 facilities stopped reporting their water pollution. According to The Hill, concrete production facilities and shipyards are the types of the industries that most often appear on the EPA’s list of facilities taking advantage of EPA’s pollution loophole. Oil and gas facilities, mineral mines and queries, coal mines, and chemical facilities also appear on EPA’s list of non-reporting facilities. 25 of the 352 facilities are located in Texas.
Equistar Chemica’s La Porte Complex released pollution that exceeded the levels allowed under its Clean Water Act permits 41 times from January 2016 to 2017. Of its 41 exceedances during that time period, seven were greater than 100% of its permit limits. Here’s the full list of Texas facilities not reporting their water pollution:
And these are just the facilities we know about. EPA has yet to disclose non-reporting from facilities releasing pollution into our air. That’s why we cannot let this pandemic polluter loophole stand one day longer. EPA and DOJ must get back to enforcing our core environmental protections today.