Fishing for bass on the Rouge River Shipping Canal, River Rouge, near Detroit, Michigan. Diallo Rucker, with his son, Canron, 7, and wife, Latrina Crawford. Also in the blue shirt, retired auto worker, Cruz Zarazua. In the background is the US Steel Plant.

1146677134

Fishing for bass on the Rouge River Shipping Canal, River Rouge, near Detroit, Michigan. Diallo Rucker, with his son, Canron, 7, and wife, Latrina Crawford. Also in the blue shirt, retired auto worker, Cruz Zarazua. In the background is the US Steel Plant.

Photo by: Cavan Images

Cavan Images

Latest COVID-19 Ruling is Terrible News for the Planet

By: Lucy Sherriff

Companies do not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus epidemic, the Environmental Protection Agency has said, in a move that could have deadly impacts on the planet.

April 28, 2020

The temporary policy has no end date, and allows any industry to pollute the water, land, or air of the US, as long as they can prove these failures are due to the coronavirus. The EPA has said it does not expect compliance with the routine monitoring and reporting of pollution – nor will it penalize those who break the usual rules.

Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA, said that coronavirus had made it difficult for businesses to protect workers and the public while adhering to clean air and water rules.

Polluted Shitalakshya River in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Shitalakshya River is the most polluted river in the country due to extensive dumping of industrial and human waste. The country saw many deaths due to environmental pollution and making it one of the worst affected countries in the world.

1139654027

Polluted Shitalakshya River in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Shitalakshya River is the most polluted river in the country due to extensive dumping of industrial and human waste. The country saw many deaths due to environmental pollution and making it one of the worst affected countries in the world.

Photo by: Rehman Asad

Rehman Asad

“This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment,” Wheeler told High Country News.

The EPA said the waiver was designed to help industries that might have trouble meeting regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to restrictions on travel, as well as social distancing measures.

The memorandum was sent out to government and private sector partners by Susan Parker Bodine, an official in the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“We are cognizant of potential worker shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the travel and social distancing restrictions,” Bodine said. “The consequences of the pandemic may affect facility operations and the availability of key staff and contractors and the ability of laboratories to timely analyze samples and provide results

“As a result,” she continued, “there may be constraints on the ability of a facility or laboratory to carry out certain activities required by our federal environmental permits, regulations, and statutes.”

The move has received staunch criticism, from local officials and former EPA staff.

“It is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future,” Cynthia Giles, the EPA’s former office of enforcement head, told The Hill. “It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way 'caused' by the virus pandemic. And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was.”

“The severity of the COVID-19 crisis should not be used as an excuse by the EPA to relax enforcement of federal environmental laws designed to protect public health and safety,” Serge Dedina, mayor of Imperial Beach, whose city is is heavily polluted, told the LA Times. “This crisis has only underscored why protecting public health and safety and our environment is more critical than ever.”

Next Up

Supertrees That Suck Up More Carbon Could Be Forest Climate Fix

Forestation and tree growth are perhaps the most powerful tool for reducing levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere and tackling climate change. Now genetically modified (GM) ‘supertrees’ that grow faster and rapidly take up CO2 could be used to address the climate crisis.

Channel Islands: A Tale of Two Worlds

Channel Islands National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the United States, yet it is only about 20 miles from the coast of Los Angeles and the bustling surf and sand lifestyle of Southern California.

How Frogs Boost Their Sex Appeal

Male frogs form ‘boy bands’ to serenade females and woo them into their mating pool.

If A Bat Were To Bite You In Your Sleep, You'd Probably Never Know

Rabies is rare, but most cases are associated with bats.

Year in Review: Nature in Focus Adventures

For many years I've looked back on the year in review and thought about all of the incredible adventures I've experienced and this year is no exception.

Galápagos Giant Tortoises Are Mysteriously Turning Up Dead in Ecuador

Despite the tough protections, there has been a spate of tortoises killed in recent months, and officials fear the animals have been slaughtered for their meat.

Helping the Los Angeles River Change Course

As a human trying to commute from Long Beach to Downtown Los Angeles to the hills of Pasadena, you probably already know that you’ll be making your way on infamous, traffic-clogged roads filled with obstacles to be avoided.

Forest Projects Will Help Rebalance Earth’s Climate

Forests might be the best tool humanity has to tackle climate change. Trees give cooling shade, absorb and store carbon dioxide (CO2), recycle water, and provide habitat for other plants and animals. Huge international projects like the Trillion Trees initiative believe planting forests will ultimately help to rebalance Earth’s climate.

Baby Bear Takes a Trip on Hallucinogenic ‘Mad Honey’

A bear cub was rescued in Turkey after passing out from eating too much hallucinogenic honey.

World Oceans Week is Making a Big Splash

Dive into World Oceans Week with the Explorers Club as they celebrate the wonders of the earth's oceans and share cutting-edge research in marine technology, conservation, and beautiful underwater photography.Learn more about all the events happening this week from June 5-June 11 at www.explorers.org.