On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will not enforce regulations that would limit the amount of small particles in our air.
This comes after a new study released by Harvard found that people with COVID-19 who live in regions with high levels of air pollution across the country, are more likely to die from the disease than people who live in less polluted areas, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study looked at the link between long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution generated primarily from fuel combustion from cars, refineries, and power plants — the same industries that the EPA will not tighten regulations on.
“EPA staff estimates that on an annual basis on average somewhere between about 13,000 to 51,000 people die prematurely under the current standard,” said Chris Frey, Glenn E. Futrell Distinguished University Professor at North Carolina State University.
Scientists like Frey were set to advise the EPA to raise its standards. Frey was part of a panel that was dismissed by the Trump administration last year. The panel met anyway in November and presented its findings as a public comment to the EPA.
This was before the coronavirus outbreak, which is now shining an even brighter light on pollution and public health.
“There’s some preliminary indication that the joint exposure at the same time of air pollution and this virus is more harmful than being exposed to the virus without the air pollution,” Frey said.
Since Trump’s “open license to pollute” announcement in late March, companies have been exempt from consequences imposed by the EPA for polluting the air or water during the outbreak.
Under Trump’s regime, the EPA does not expect power plants, factories or other companies to meet environmental standards and reporting of pollution during the outbreak, and it will not pursue penalties if companies break the rules.
In February, Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2021 called for significant reductions to environmental programs at federal agencies, including a 26 percent cut to the EPA.
Rather than upholding protections for the environment and safety for everyone, Trump chooses to ensure unfettered freedom for big polluters.
And as the U.S. hits over one million confirmed coronavirus cases, Trump continues to strip national environmental protections that will put public health in further jeopardy. The EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment has been muddled by Trump’s massive funding cuts and over 95 environmental regulation rollbacks.
It is time for Trump to put the well-being of the country before his own financial gains. Communities across the country will all be impacted by these environmental rollbacks and lawmakers need to guarantee that over 50 years of environmental progress will not go undone.