Washington, D.C. May 6, 2020— The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) today filed a court brief on behalf of two former high-ranking EPA officials in support of an April 1 lawsuit by environmental groups against the Trump Administration EPA over its relaxed environmental enforcement policy during the coronavirus pandemic.
EIP filed the “friend of the court” (or amici curiae) brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York court for Cynthia Giles, who served as the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance from 2009 to 2017, and Steven A. Herman, who held the same position from 1993 to 2001.
“A public health emergency is not the time to abandon environmental standards that protect public health,” said Giles. “EPA’s policy gives companies a free pass. The only way for EPA to restore some accountability is to require companies that violate the rules to say so publicly in real time.”
Giles and Herman support an April 1 lawsuit filed by NRDC, Public Citizen and 14 allied groups against the Trump EPA for its new relaxed environmental enforcement policy. That new policy, announced on March 26, waives penalties for industries that that fail to monitor or report their pollution as required by the federal Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other federal environmental laws, based on claims that the COVID-19 pandemic made it impractical to comply.
The lawsuit asks the court to order EPA to respond promptly to the NRDC’s rulemaking petition, filed on behalf of a coalition of community organizations, which would require companies to publicly disclose when they suspend monitoring or reporting of their pollution during the pandemic.
“EPA’s policy is a sweeping invitation for companies to suspend monitoring and reporting their pollution in the middle of a public health crisis,” said Herman. “The agency should have focused more narrowly on those circumstances where the pandemic made compliance temporarily impossible. Our laws give the public full access to the pollution monitoring data that companies report. The public deserves the right to know where and when that monitoring has been suspended.”
For a copy of the brief, click here.
For a copy of NRDC’s original lawsuit, click here.
The Environmental Integrity Project is an 18-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment.