Lack of Enforcement: Less compliance with environmental laws means more pollution in the lakes

Lack of Enforcement: Less compliance with environmental laws means more pollution in the lakes
January 26, 2021 Natasha Blakely

The long-term impact of the Trump administration on the Great Lakes environment remains a big question – particularly when President Donald Trump was still rolling back environmental protections in the last few months of his term.

Over the length of his term, Trump rolled back a number of rules and regulations, and enforcement of the ones that remained dropped.

EPA staff, one of the agencies that enforces environmental regulations, was cut by more than 20%, according to Brian Kelly, an emergency responder with the U.S. EPA.

“You can bring less cases against polluters, so then you can have less compliance with environmental laws,” Nicole Cantello, president of AFGE Local 704, which represents about 1,000 EPA workers in the Great Lakes region, said in an interview with Great Lakes Now. “When there’s less compliance with environmental laws, more pollution goes out into the Great Lakes.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced that concept when the EPA announced in March a policy of “enforcement discretion,” whereby the EPA “does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance.”

An AP investigation published in August found that “thousands of oil and gas operations, government facilities and other sites won permission to stop monitoring for hazardous emissions or otherwise bypass rules intended to protect health and the environment.”

Though the leniency was granted citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on the environment as a result remains to be seen.

“The harm from this policy is already done,” Cynthia Giles, EPA’s former assistant administrator under the Obama administration, told the AP in the article.

Here are some other Great Lakes Now stories involving environmental enforcement issues:

COVID-19 Compliance: Agencies grapple with environmental protection in the COVID-19 era

What Has the Trump Administration Meant for Water?

Across the U.S., millions of people are drinking unsafe water. How can we fix that?

Dam Investment: How does Michigan stack up against Great Lakes peers?

Green Reset: COVID-19 offers opportunity for lighter environmental impact

Regulation During COVID-19: Canadian, U.S. agencies lighten monitoring priorities

Featured image: (Photo courtesy of Detroit Public Television)


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