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House Democrats Ask EPA to Turn Back Relaxed Enforcement Policy

March 31, 2020, 4:32 PM

Eight House Democrats told EPA chief Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday that the agency’s relaxed enforcement policy during the coronavirus pandemic is “unprecedented and dangerous.”

Leaders on the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition told Wheeler that the new policy is “granting polluting industries a free pass to contaminate our air and water” and asked the agency to reverse its decision. Those signing the letter included Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.).

  • An EPA spokeswoman called many of the coalition’s claims false and said it is “apparent they didn’t even read our guidance.” The agency remains active on enforcement and hasn’t issued a nationwide waiver of environmental rules, she said.
  • The guidance, which recognizes that some entities can’t perform certain monitoring, testing, sampling, and reporting duties, states that the EPA won’t seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting requirements if, on a case-by-case basis, the agency agrees that noncompliance was caused by the pandemic, the spokeswoman said.
  • Suspended enforcement would especially endanger low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal and indigenous communities, the lawmakers said.

—With assistance from Dean Scott.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Chuck McCutcheon at