May 20, 2020

Duckworth Presses Head of EPA on Rollback of Pollution Protections During COVID-19 Pandemic


[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, co-founder of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus, today pressed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler about reports that EPA is rolling back air pollution protections and enabling a non-enforcement policy that encourages companies to operate without regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic, which could severely impact environmental justice communities. Video of Duckworth’s questions at today’s U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) hearing is available here.

“While cities with some of the worst air pollution in the world like New Delhi are enjoying clear skies for the first time in decades, Chicago’s soot pollution has gone down by just 1 percent over the last month. And on average, April 2020 was dirtier than both April 2018 and 2017. I am concerned that the enforcement policy EPA has implemented has sent industry the message they can operate without regulation,” said Duckworth. “This non-enforcement policy is almost certain to hurt low income communities and communities of color the hardest, where industries that operate without regulation are most often located—in black and brown communities, in particular. EPA’s Region 5 office is in my backyard and I take very seriously that the workforce there must be able to shelter-in-place safely. However, I am appalled that EPA would offer a blanket non-enforcement policy without seeking specific information on why these facilities are unable to comply with their permits.”

In April, Duckworth joined her colleagues in sending a letter to Wheeler asking the EPA to improve communication of risks related to EtO emissions and expressing concerns that EPA is failing to uphold its mission to protect public health.