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Federal Dereliction of Duty: Environmental Racism Under Covid-19

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"Federal Dereliction of Duty: Environmental Racism Under COVID-19" exposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s contributions to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on People of Color, Indigenous Peoples and low-income communities.

As COVID-19 spread across the US in March 2020, the EPA announced a dramatic deregulation of environmental monitoring and enforcement. The announcement came three days after a request in writing by the American Petroleum Institute, which represents 600 oil and gas companies. This deregulation policy lifted oversight on all federally-regulated sources of pollution, including chemical manufacturing, coal-fired power plants, mining and smelting, sewage and waste facilities, and factory farms. By June, the EPA had further eased regulations intended to protect farmworkers against pesticide exposure. In the meantime, multiple studies early in the pandemic demonstrated links between poor air quality and health risks from COVID-19.

This report is the first in-depth analysis of the EPA’s failure to address the environmental injustice of its policy allowing polluting industries to “self-regulate,” just as evidence was mounting about the connections between toxic air pollution and severe illness and death from COVID-19.

The report calls for: an investigation into the impacts of EPA’s rollback; a mandate for all federal agencies to prioritize mitigation of harm to at-risk communities; monitoring tools for communities to assess environmental risks and harms, building on new EPA efforts to address health disparities; enforcement of EPA’s existing environmental and civil rights laws; and passing the Environmental Justice for All and Environmental Justice Acts to establish enforceable environmental justice and civil rights protections that cannot be ignored by future administrations.

Authors include WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the Farmworker Association of Florida, Just Transition Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Los Jardines Institute, in partnership with the Vermont Law School Environmental Justice Clinic


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