On March 26, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a non-enforcement policy, allowing companies to use COVID-19 as a reason to stop monitoring and reporting pollution—without notifying the public. The policy poses a huge risk to public health, especially to downstream, downwind, and already overburdened communities—who, without timely information about air and water emissions, cannot protect themselves from being harmed, the lawsuit states. It applies to every industry in the country—including chemical manufacturing, oil and gas extraction, coal-fired power plants, refineries, mining and smelting, and factory farms—and to virtually all other sources of pollution.
Public Citizen, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and a coalition of community-based climate and environmental justice groups petitioned the EPA on April 1, 2020, for an emergency rule requiring that companies taking advantage of the policy notify EPA in writing when they stop monitoring or reporting their air and water emissions. The petition (here) asked that EPA then post the notifications online, where they would be available to the public.
When EPA did not respond to the request, Public Citizen joined NRDC and other petitioners in a lawsuit asking a federal court to order the EPA to respond to the petition as soon as possible. Soon thereafter, we moved for summary judgment, asking the court to order EPA to issue a response to the petition within five days of the court’s order. The court, however, held that we lacked standing to sue over the delayed response to our petition because, the court stated, we had not shown that we were injured by not having the requested information.