Unnecessary Action Encourages Industries to Pollute

Washington, D.C. – March 27 – Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) strongly opposes the suspension of enforcement for violations of environmental law announced by the Trump Administration’s EPA, which sends a clear message to a broad swath of industries that the mere mention of COVID-19 will allow them to pollute our waterways with no consequences.

While it is undisputed that the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting American lives in profound ways, it’s also never been more important to ensure that the public has access to clean drinking water and a healthy and safe environment. Under current law, facilities including sewage treatment plants, power plants and chemical manufacturers in the Potomac watershed are required to seek EPA’s permission if and when circumstances beyond their control, such as staffing shortages due to COVID-19, prevent them from complying with the law. The EPA’s open-ended policy not only relaxes that requirement, it also fails to require polluters to notify the public when they violate their permits and dump pollution into the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

“This policy is an open invitation for polluting industries to violate the law now, and ask for forgiveness later,” said Phillip Musegaas, PRKN’s Vice President of Programs and Litigation. “Potomac Riverkeeper Network will continue to patrol our rivers and take legal action to hold polluters accountable wherever and whenever we find them despoiling the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.”

PRKN joined a coalition of environmental organizations in a letter to EPA objecting to the new Trump Administration policy, released today, that relaxes environmental compliance rules for petrochemical plants and other big polluters during the coronavirus crisis.

“Unfortunately, some industries may face temporary staffing or operational challenges that temporarily prevent them from fully complying with the law,” continued Musegaas. “While that may be inevitable in some cases, that in no way justifies EPA’s craven attempt to give polluters a free pass in the midst of a national crisis.”