Committee Leaders Demand Additional Information on EPA’s Non-Enforcement Policy During Coronavirus Pandemic
Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler following up on their April 21 letter demanding answers for the Agency’s relaxation of enforcement laws during the coronavirus pandemic. In their April letter, the three Committee leaders expressed concern that EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance’s (OECA) COVID-19 policy inappropriately places the burden on EPA to proactively request information from regulated industry to help determine whether COVID-19 was the cause of any non-compliance.
The letter comes as EPA has, to date, failed to address the Committee leaders’ concerns. It also takes issue with troubling comments made by EPA staff during a recent bipartisan briefing, which raised additional questions and underscored concerns that the Agency’s enforcement policy unnecessarily undermines compliance with public health and environmental laws.
“We requested a number of modifications which would ensure EPA staff have sufficient information to make this determination while also providing additional clarity and transparency to the public and regulated entities. EPA has not yet responded to these or other requested modifications and information requests in our correspondence,” wrote Pallone, DeFazio and McCollum. “Furthermore, OECA staff have made a number of troubling statements which affirm our concern that EPA’s COVID-19 enforcement policy creates license for companies to violate our environmental laws.”
“The present national emergency calls for heightened efforts across government to protect public health,” Pallone, DeFazio and McCollum continued. “EPA’s latest representations regarding implementation of its COVID-19 enforcement policy further suggest not only that EPA is failing to collect information to help identify illegal pollution, but that it does not intend to conduct a comprehensive, effective review of whether any non-compliance was in fact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In addition to the questions raised in the Committee leaders’ first letter — answers to which remain outstanding — Pallone, DeFazio and McCollum are also requesting information on the following:
- What criteria EPA intends to use to determine the non-enforcement policy’s end date in various different geographic regions;
- Whether EPA has decided to end its new non-enforcement policy in states where stay-at-home orders have been lifted, as the Agency previously indicated it might;
- Which industries and companies have requested modifications to EPA’s enforcement policy; and
- What actions EPA has taken regarding supervision of state enforcement programs.
The Committee leaders requested that Administrator Wheeler respond in writing by June 24, 2020.
A PDF of the letter is available here.