Statement: Trump Administration Abdicates Enforcement Responsibility, Putting North Carolinians At Risk

For Immediate Release

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Environmental  Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week it is suspending enforcement of U.S. environmental laws indefinitely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  The enforcement suspension is backdated to March 13. 

This decision comes on the heels of oil and gas lobbyists asking EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler to give their industry a pass on pollution regulation. This decision is likely to exacerbate air pollution in North Carolina. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak or the EPA’s suspension of enforcement, Environment North Carolina released “Trouble in the Air,” a report outlining the amount of days North Carolinians were exposed to poor air quality in 2018. Already Raleigh experienced 75 days of detrimental air quality; Greensboro/High Point, 80; and Winston-Salem, more than 100 days of polluted air.

Jamie Lockwood, Climate and Clean Energy Associate at Environment North Carolina, issued the following statement in response:

“The EPA’s decision to stop enforcing key provisions of our environmental laws puts North Carolina’s 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.   

“For our state, this means putting our communities in danger through unchecked air pollution, which severely exacerbates the severity of COVID-19. Experts are warning that air pollution is likely to increase the death rate from COVID-19, and those with chronic conditions may be less likely to fight off infection. 

“As North Carolina and the rest of our nation struggles to contain the coronavirus, health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and the public cares even more deeply about the air we breathe and the water we drink.  If EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will not rescind this policy immediately, we urge Congress to exercise its oversight authority to ensure the safety of our air and water.”