By Ritvik Dutta
Shortly after announcing that COVID-19 is the direct cause of their loosening of strict law enforcement, the EPA received major backlash from many environmental agencies and organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, who petitioned to require all companies to document and disclose when they stop checking their own water and carbon emissions and usage publicly. So far, the EPA has failed to answer these calls to action.
Instead, Trump’s EPA has continued to hold onto its belief that restrictions on largely fossil-fuel dependent industries are unnecessary. In his willingness to undo all of Obama’s reforms, President Trump has elected to keep all air pollution standards untouched even with multiple studies suggesting that the increase of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) actually increases the transmission rate of the SARS-CoV-2 strain. Given the current situation, many people like Sally Hardin were outraged. Hardin wrote, “At a time when the Trump administration should be doing everything in its power to save American lives, it is instead putting more and more of them at risk through reckless rollbacks of clean air protections.” This governmental obstinacy has been relatively under the radar, with Trump sneaking all of his changes throughout this quarantine period.
However, some states have had enough of this governmental intransigence. New York and New Jersey have already sought out legal action to solve their issues related to downwind air pollution. These issues were first introduced when the EPA refused to mandate emission controls on the 350 power plants bordering New York and New Jersey, the states that were most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. When brought to court, EPA administrators tried to defend their organization, arguing that the multiple studies that corroborate that air pollution is linked to the spread of the coronavirus do not warrant tougher regulations.
New Jersey has been seen to frequent legal battles with the EPA, with this case being the second in the month of May. The other case was brought up due to the EPA’s exemption of many bodies of water from the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule”, which was enacted by the Obama administration. New Jersey, along with California, New York, and fourteen other states and two major American cities, compiled a 29-page lawsuit suing the EPA due to their dependence on the affected bodies of water for resources. In response, an EPA spokesperson said the agency and Department of the Army “believe that the Navigable Waters Protection Rule will stand the test of time […] [and that] Congress, in the Clean Water Act, explicitly directed the Agencies to protect ‘navigable waters.’ The Navigable Waters Protection Rule regulates these waters and the core tributary systems that provide perennial or intermittent flow into them.”
Whether or not the efforts of these states prove useful is yet to be seen.