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COVID-19

IN BRIEF: States ask for immediate halt to EPA’s pandemic compliance rollback

Sebastien Malo  

Sebastien Malo  

(Reuters) - Nine states who sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for relaxing a range of compliance and monitoring requirements with federal clean air and water laws in response to the coronavirus pandemic have asked a Manhattan court to immediately stop the policy until their lawsuit is resolved.

The states, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, asked the Southern District of New York on Monday to issue a preliminary injunction that would block the application of the temporary policy the EPA announced on March 26.
 
Under the policy, the EPA said it would not seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the agency agrees that COVID-19 was the cause. The temporary policy had no end date.
 
In a court filing, the states ask U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon to grant their request because the policy is reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act as a final agency action.
 
They argue that the possibility the EPA may later review decisions of companies forgoing compliance activities does not make the policy tentative since companies are not required to keep records proving the pandemic has prompted noncompliance.
 
The states also argue that even if they later take enforcement actions to remedy noncompliance of pollution limits, harm to public health will already have occurred.
 
The other named plaintiffs are California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia.
 
The EPA, represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, did not reply to a request for comment.
 
The case is State of New York et al v. United States Environmental Protection Agency et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:20-cv-03714-CM.
 
For State of New York et al: Michael Myers, Patrick Omilian and Samantha Liskow with the New York State Office of The Attorney General
 
For United States Environmental Protection Agency et al: Lucas Issacharoff and Rachael Doud with the United States Attorney’s Office.

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