EPA suspends enforcement of environmental laws in response to COVID-19

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The federal Environmental Protection Agency is making a change in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The EPA decided to suspend the enforcement of environmental laws during the coronavirus outbreak which is receiving mixed reactions.  

Watching out for North Carolina’s environment doesn’t stop for people like Jillian Howell,  even with COVID-19 in the world.

Howell is the Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper for Sound Rivers, a local non-profit organization and she is concerned about the decision from Washington.

The head of the EPA is putting his agency’s rules on hold for now. He says the coronavirus could affect the ability of industries to follow the regulations.

It sort of makes sense maybe on a case by case basis to evaluate whether or not an industry or a facility can’t meet the requirements of their permits but on such a large scale say that this is across the board, everybody, that’s sort of where what we’re really concerned about,” says Howell. 

The decision is upsetting many former EPA officials and environmental groups. 

“This is going to end at some point and lapse rules of regulations around pollution now mean we’re just going to have to deal with bigger problems later,” Howell explains. 

There is no end date yet for this policy change, but there is a flip side.

Businesses are reducing or stopping production altogether to follow North Carolina’s “stay home” order. 

The EPA says this policy doesn’t provide leniency for intentional criminal violations of the law. 

For more details on the Enforcement Discretion Policy, you can access it here.

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