By Yoca Arditi-Rocha, the CLEO Institute
While leaders across the country are taking bold steps to reduce the devastating effects of COVID-19, President Trump and the EPA are putting our lives in danger by stopping the enforcement of clean air and water safeguards.
Now, families across Florida who are worrying about their health and struggling to pay the bills have to wonder if the factory or power plant nearby is releasing more toxins into their air and water. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Trump administration is withholding critical information, making it impossible for the public to know how and where polluters may be dumping toxins.
This decision to stop enforcing public health safeguards comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s rollbacks of nearly 100 policies that protect us from pollution. Now, a complete halt of all enforcement of clean air laws could be a death sentence for our most vulnerable communities.
Researchers at Harvard recently released a report linking exposure to air pollution with higher death rates among COVID-19 patients, which means that allowing more pollution during this pandemic will only exacerbate the crisis.
Low-income communities and communities of color hit hard by this health crisis are disproportionately stuck living near factories, refineries and power plants.
In the middle of a pandemic, public health should come first, but these rollbacks and the lack of enforcement do nothing but give corporate polluters another handout. By refusing to hold industry executives accountable, there will be more pollution in the air and water.
Without transparency, there will be no way of knowing where this pollution is coming from or where it is going. Facilities in Florida like Robbins Manufacturing Company in Webster or Air Products and Chemicals outside of Pensacola were cited for significant environmental violations over the past 5 years, incurring huge fines from the EPA. Now, they could be free to pollute without consequences.
The Trump administration is exploiting this pandemic to give sweetheart deals to corporate executives at the expense of our health. At the very least, Floridians deserve to know the status of their air and water during a health crisis.
But, the EPA has not provided any information about the lack of enforcement in Florida or even a tentative date for when it will resume enforcement. That is why we are demanding that the EPA and the state of Florida tell the public which facilities are polluting our communities before another life is put at risk.
We cannot let the Trump administration use COVID-19 as an opportunity to gut our most crucial protections just to help special interests. We must stop these rollbacks, enforce critical safeguards, and if nothing else, get transparency about which corporations might be polluting our air and water.
Yoca Arditi-Rocha is the Executive Director of the CLEO Institute.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.