60 activists signed the letter to EPA including Texas Campaign for the Environment.​ Photo courtesy of Storyblocks.com.

March 30, 2020

Some Texas activists joined a coalition of 60 environmentalists who sent a letter to EPA objecting to a new Trump Administration policy, released last week, that relaxes environmental compliance rules for petrochemical plants and other big polluters during the coronavirus crisis. 

The signers of the letter included Robin Schneider, executive director for Texas Campaign for the Environment; Adrian Shelley, Public Citizen's Texas director; and Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas.

"It is vital to assure that the public’s health is not compromised by toxic pollution, especially now when vulnerable populations are at a great risk of hospitalization and death,” said Schneider. “Both Trump and Abbott certainly need to engage governmental powers in the Covid-19 crisis to both protect the public health and to help people meet real, essential human needs -- food, homes, and health care. However, they should not use the crisis to jeopardize our future beyond the crisis with bad environmental policy. We must and can avoid worsening our ongoing background load of toxins."

The environmental organizations voiced their concerns in response to last week's announcement that the Trump Administration EPA will “provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions.”

“It is not clear why refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that continue to operate and keep their employees on the production line will no longer have the staff or time they need to comply with environmental laws,” said the statement, which was written by Eric Schaeffer of the Environmental Integrity Project, former Director of Civil Enforcement at EPA.“Excusing the potential release of excess toxic air pollutants and other pollution that exacerbates asthma, breathing difficulty, and cardiovascular problems in the midst of a pandemic that can cause respiratory failure is irresponsible from a public health perspective,” the letter states.

The Environmental Integrity Project released a report last year documenting the sharp drop in environmental enforcement during the Trump Administration.

Read a copy of EPA’s new policy of enforcement during the coronavirus crisis.

Read the full text of the letter from the environmentalists.

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