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California Attorney General Takes Aim at EPA Enforcement Plan

April 9, 2020, 8:00 PM

California’s top legal official is calling on the EPA to reconsider its decision to relax some enforcement of federal pollution laws during the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in a Thursday letter, criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s March 26 announcement that it wouldn’t penalize companies if Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, prevents them from meeting certain environmental obligations, including monitoring and reporting pollution.

“By giving wide berth for pollution to go unmeasured and unaccounted for during this critical time, the EPA’s Noncompliance Policy will likely further endanger the public health and safety of communities exposed to that pollution and increase the likelihood that the most vulnerable Americans suffer the most serious consequences from the virus,” he wrote to EPA enforcement chief Susan Parker Bodine.

The Democratic attorney general is a persistent foe of the Trump administration, having filed more than 40 lawsuits challenging federal environmental policy moves in recent years.

The EPA has defended its approach as a reasonable response to the pandemic, giving oversight officials and regulated companies the flexibility they need to comply with “stay at home” orders and other public health precautions.

Becerra is also throwing his weight behind an April 1 petition from environmentalists and public health groups that want the EPA to issue an emergency rule requiring public notice from companies that take advantage of the “enforcement discretion” policy.

Other states have had mixed reactions to the EPA’s enforcement plan, with some embracing the flexible approach and others vowing to continue aggressive oversight.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Rebecca Baker at