AUSTIN - Late Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new policy that would suspend enforcement of key provisions of our nation’s environmental laws during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The decision came on the heels of requests from the oil and gas industry and others seeking exemptions.
Catherine Fraser, Clean Air Associate for Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, issued the following statement in response:
"The EPA’s decision to stop enforcing key provisions of our environmental laws puts Texans’ air, water, and health at the mercy of polluters. The whole framework of the Clean Air Act depends on monitoring and reporting, without which we have no idea what facilities are releasing into the air we breathe.”
“This is particularly true in the context of oil and gas industry operations. Refineries release millions of pounds of air pollution -- including fugitive emissions or leaks -- that would go undetected without stringent monitoring requirements.” According to Environment Texas’ Illegal Air Pollution in Texas Report, industrial facilities released over 135 million pounds of illegal air pollution, in violation of their Clean Air Act permits in 2018.
“From drill pads and waste pits to compressor stations and pipelines, oil and gas production releases dangerous emissions at every stage of the process -- sometimes doing so in close proximity to child care centers, nursing homes, and even hospitals.
“This reckless new policy allows the EPA to let facilities off the hook for endangering the health and safety of Texans. It disregards actual instances of excessive pollution in light of “circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic,” and constitutes an open invitation to pollute.
“As our nation struggles to contain the coronavirus, health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind; right now, the public cares even more deeply about the air we breathe and the water we drink. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler should rescind this policy immediately, and Congress should exercise its oversight authority to ensure the safety of our air and water.”
Environment Texas is a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces.