Negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are across the board. You feel it. We feel it.
One group, however, is celebrating: polluters.
I am unsure how this is even legally possible (attorneys, we need your help!), but on Thursday, US EPA sent a wide-sweeping and open-ended statement that it will not be enforcing environmental compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read The Hill’s summary here.
This includes the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Environmental protections are, without question, as important as other laws and regulations affecting public health and safety, but no one is proposing that we suspend OSHA enforcement. It defies logic to retain protections for health and safety on an individual basis (strain out the gnat) and then remove or fail to enforce protections for the health and safety of the public at large (swallow the camel).
Since Tennessee’s Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is the entity charged with CWA compliance and enforcement at the state level, some individuals and groups sent a letter to Governor Bill Lee and TDEC Commissioner David Salyers just this morning asking that CWA permitting be suspended until after the crisis. (See full letter below.)
TCWN is of the opinion that TDEC should redirect the time and labor resources saved from processing new permits to enforcing the ones we already have.
Tennessee has an obligation to protect its citizenry from the harmful health effects of pollutants, including those that would cause potential immune system suppression and aggravation of preexisting health conditions. We must not compound the current infectious threat we face with additional risks to the lives and lands of Tennesseans.