At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump Administration announced a policy that relaxed federal environmental monitoring and reporting requirements for polluting industries across the country. The March announcement meant that the agency, which is charged with enforcing the country’s environmental laws, wouldn’t likely seek penalties from facilities who failed to monitor or report regulatory violations due to the pandemic.
By later in the spring, research was already showing a connection between elevated COVID-19 death rates and air pollution, and a national coalition of environmental justice organizations challenged the policy. Earlier this year, new research confirmed the coalition’s fears. The study, conducted by two American University scholars, found that counties with more industrial facilities that release toxic chemicals experienced increases in air pollution after the rollback of federal environmental enforcement. The study also found that increased pollution led to large and statistically significant increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths, and that the increased pollution exposure was more severe i... Read more