How The EPA Has Failed To Protect Us During The Coronavirus

Izzy Oberman

Coronavirus has brought a lot of change to our already rapidly evolving world. As a society, we have had to adapt to seemingly foreign concepts: social-distancing and stay-at-home orders. In an era of change, however, the environmental standards to which companies are held should not be modified. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the COVID-19 spread starting on March 13. They claim that these new regulation guidelines, or lack thereof, provide comfort and safety to the companies amidst the virus. Unfortunately, the EPA did not consider how they are further undermining the public’s confidence in a time of crisis. 

The EPA trusts that companies will act responsibly without typical regulations. Nevertheless, these regulations exist for a reason: to protect people by keeping irresponsible companies in check. Right now, people’s protection is at an immense risk. Compliances mandated by the EPA serve to monitor air pollutants, pesticides, chemicals, and hazardous waste. Under the newly proposed relaxation of rules, all of these concerns are left in the hands of the companies, which—even though they are experiencing Coronavirus related calamities these issues should in no way exempt them from environmental concerns. Keeping up with regulations should not be a hassle, but that is exactly what they are for; they are crucial safeguarding measures. Major polluters are having a field day because they have an “open license to pollute” at the public’s expense says Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former EPA Administrator. The EPA is not upholding its sole mission of protecting citizens, which is especially important during a time when America’s public health is already at a low point. Companies must spend their energies by putting public health first, and, without regulation, they ignore these concerns which leads to extremely dangerous outcomes.

Coronavirus has changed things for every person, and hopefully, the world will recover in time. Still, the scars left by polluters, after acquiring the keys to the kingdom, will never be erased. Granta Nakayama, who served in the EPA’s office of compliance under President George W. Bush, said the wave of regulations gave companies “guidance”  during the Coronavirus. The only guidance available in the EPA’s statement is that companies don’t have to worry about penalties for non-compliance to most regulations. While the EPA has deemed it necessary to maintain a few, all regulations made by the EPA are crucial in preserving the well-being of individuals and the environment. Any failure to follow previously monitored mandates will hurt society indefinitely, possibly forever. With all the chaos happening, people should simply not need to fear the addition of damages being done to the environment. 

This failure of government oversight prolongs the conditions society has to endure; adding the possibility of bringing even more tragedies in the future. The worst part of this failure in guidance is that no one will ever truly know the damage done by these companies during this pandemic because monitoring the levels of pollutants produced is not currently required. In the years to come, the world will suffer countless damage from the failures made by the EPA to ensure public safety. They have failed to consider how this problem will affect generations to come, how it will worsen people’s quality of life, and how it will make the world a worse place. 

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