Opinion by Derek Wallentinsen (part 2 of a series)
Power grabs and reversals of progress are happening while public attention is focused on COVID-19. The first article in this series focused on the Department of Justice seeking to detain people indefinitely. Another backward and abusive step involves the Environmental Protection Agency:
The Environmental Protection Agency is indefinitely suspending its rules. Under the new “temporary” (without any timeframe) policy, industry and polluters will be trusted to self-regulate and won’t face any punishment or regulation for violating protective environmental policies. “The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment,” tweeted Greta Thunberg. “This is a schoolbook example of what we need to start looking out for.”
The oil industry, a large part of New Mexico’s economy and environmental impact, aggressively lobbied for the order, which is another effort by the Trump administration to use the coronavirus pandemic to advance right-wing policies that likely wouldn’t be permitted—or would at least be scrutinized—under normal circumstances. It’s a move strongly condemned by many, including Cynthia Giles, former Obama Administration EPA Office of Enforcement head: “It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way ’caused’ by the virus pandemic.”
This is bad news when we are faced with climate disruption from a fossil fuel economy, the toxic forever PFAS chemicals now in most people’s bodies worldwide, and microplastics everywhere. It runs counter to the right to live in a healthy environment and work for clean air, land and water, affirmed as a plank of the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s platform.
Derek Wallentinsen is a naturalist writer-photographer and a longtime New Mexico resident. His pictures and writings have appeared in such places as Planetary Astronomy Magazine, Sky and Telescope, Southern Sierran and in the last 20 years at numerous locations on the World Wide Web.