Could social distancing make it harder to enforce environmental laws?
Increased orders to stay home to avoid contact and stanch the spread of the coronavirus, former federal officials tell Bloomberg Environment, could limit the Environmental Protection Agency's and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' enforcement ability.
Eric Schaeffer, the executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and the former director of the EPA's Office of Civil Enforcement, says that isolation "would obviously start to cramp inspections."
"At least one lawyer said his phone already is ringing 'off the hook' with clients seeking to delay environmental permit obligations," report Stephen Lee and Amena H. Saiyid.
Nevertheless, online and remote enforcement work is possible, Schaeffer says, as "much of the EPA’s enforcement work involves reviewing reports on compliance, inspections, and discharge monitoring that have already been gathered."
But the concerns come as the EPA's inspection rate "was already trending down," report Lee and Saiyid. "Last month, the EPA said it conducted 10,320 inspections in 2019, its lowest level in at least a decade."
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