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Natural Resources & Energy
A regional collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Citing COVID-19, EPA Puts Big Polluters On The Honor System

The Marathon oil refinery in the northern part of Salt Lake City.
The Marathon oil refinery in the northern part of Salt Lake City.

Some of the nation's top polluters are now running on the honor system after the Environmental Protection Agency last week announced relaxed enforcement of environmental regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the temporary policy, announced March 26, "the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request."

The environmental protection group Natural Resources Defense Council criticized the EPA's move, calling it a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on pollution.

"Our concern is that by granting amnesty from compliance monitoring and reporting nationwide you're giving license to unlawful and excessive pollution limits without regulators or the public knowing about them," said the NRDC's John Walke.

The EPA's "enforcement discretion policy" comes a little more than a week after the American Petroleum Institute wrote a letter to the agency requesting that it waive routine reporting and testing requirements during the pandemic since "there may be limited personnel capacity to manage the full scope of the current regulatory requirements."

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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