President Donald Trump is now exploiting the coronavirus pandemic by giving industries across the country the ability to pollute at will by suspending all environmental rules and regulations, according to an announcement by the EPA this week.

Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have already been trying to use the pandemic as cover to suspend Due Process and other constitutional rights. But now Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler are suspending environmental rules and regulations just hours after Trump boasted about oil industry profits and promised that they would make even more profits in the future.

Well, not having to comply with rules and regulations will certainly achieve that promise, except that it throws the American people and our environment under the bus in the process.

According to the EPA:

EPA is announcing a temporary policy regarding EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

EPA’s temporary enforcement discretion policy applies to civil violations during the COVID-19 outbreak. The policy addresses different categories of noncompliance differently. For example, under the policy EPA does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations that are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic but does expect operators of public water systems to continue to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies. The policy also describes the steps that regulated facilities should take to qualify for enforcement discretion.

This is a catastrophe for the environment because industries don’t have to report violations and can ignore all safety and health rules and regulations indefinitely because the EPA provided absolutely no time-frame for the suspension to end even as Trump remains obsessed with dropping pandemic measures by Easter Sunday. Again, he’s putting big business over lives.

But if anti-spread measures can be lifted in just two weeks, why is the EPA instituting a policy that will likely last months or longer?

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” Wheeler said in a statement. “This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.”

At a time when coronavirus threatens the lives of millions across the globe, the last thing Americans need is to worry about whether industries are ignoring clean water and clean air rules. Clean air rules are especially important right now considering that this virus impacts the lungs and makes breathing difficult. Allowing industries to pollute the air with impunity will only make the virus deadlier.

“It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way ’caused’ by the virus pandemic,” former EPA Office of Enforcement chief Cynthia Giles said. “And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was.”

This is a four-alarm fire that the American people need to rise up and put out. The EPA should not be retreating from its duty to protect the health and safety of the American people at this time. And doing so will only result in more Americans dying, this time for fossil fuel industry profits.

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