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‘Holy crap this is insane’: Citing coronavirus pandemic, EPA indefinitely suspends environmental rules

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“The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment. This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, announced on Thursday a sweeping and indefinite suspension of environmental rules amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, a move green groups warned gives the fossil fuel industry a “green light to pollute with impunity.”

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Under the new policy (pdf), which the EPA insisted is temporary while providing no timeframe, big polluters will effectively be trusted to regulate themselves and will not be punished for failing to comply with reporting rules and other requirements. The order—applied retroactively beginning March 13, 2020—requests that companies “act responsibly” to avoid violations.

“Outrageous. Suspending all environmental regulations indefinitely? This has nothing to do with coronavirus. This has everything to do with protecting Big Business.”
—Rep. Mark Pocan

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” Wheeler said in a statement. “This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.”

Critics, such as youth climate leader Greta Thunberg, accused the Trump administration of exploiting the coronavirus crisis to advance its longstanding goal of drastically rolling back environmental protections.

“The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment,” tweeted Thunberg. “This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.”

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Cynthia Giles, former head of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement under the Obama administration, told The Hill that the new policy is “essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future.”

“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,” said Giles. “And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was.”

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The EPA’s order, for which the oil industry aggressively lobbied, represents the latest effort by the Trump administration to usethe coronavirus pandemic to advance right-wing policies that would likely not be permitted—or would at least face greater scrutiny—under normal circumstances.

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As Common Dreams reported last week, the White House is advancing an assault on public-sector unions, xenophobic border policies, and other objectives amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has officially infected more than 85,000 people in the United States as of Friday morning.

“Outrageous,” tweeted Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in response to the EPA’s new policy. “Suspending all environmental regulations indefinitely? This has nothing to do with coronavirus. This has everything to do with protecting Big Business.”


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MSNBC’s Maya Wiley reveals she is exploring a bid to run for mayor of New York City

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Civil rights activist and prominent MSNBC analyst Maya Wiley revealed on MSNBC on Thursday that she is considering a campaign for mayor of New York City.

Wiley also serves as the senior vice president for social justice at The New School and the Henry Cohen Professor of Urban Policy and Management at the Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment.

"There have been reports in multiple outlets about some people discussing whether or not you might run for mayor of new york," MSNBC chief legal analyst Ari Melber noted. "Not as friend of Maya, but as a journalist, do you have any comment on that? Are you considering running for mayor?"

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GOP Senate candidate suspended football player for one game — for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl: report

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On Thursday, in an op-ed, the conservative Washington Examiner reported on an incident from Alabama Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville's career as a football coach for Auburn University in 1999.

"When Clifton Robinson, the short but quick receiver from Naples, Florida, returned to the Auburn University football team in August 1999 after pleading guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor to avoid going to trial after being charged with the second-degree rape of a 15-year-old girl, first-year head coach Tommy Tuberville pledged to figure out the right punishment for him," wrote Siraj Hashmi. "'Clifton is back on the team,' Tuberville said. 'He and I will sit down today, and I'll tell him that we do things right around here, so he can expect there will be some punishment. What it is, I don't know yet.' That punishment ended up being a mere one-game suspension from the team's Sept. 4 season opener against Appalachian State. Auburn won 22-15."

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Arizona Republican attacks Fauci and Birx for ‘undermining’ Trump with COVID-19 facts

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COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arizona set a record on Thursday, but one of the state's Republican representatives in Congress went to Fox News to urge the end of President Donald Trump's Coronavirus Task Force.

"I think that Birx and Fauci have gone well past their, their -- they've expired, their time of usefulness has expired," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) said.

"What they do, is when the president comes out and makes a policy -- because he is the president, he is the policymaker. When they come and make these statements that they make, they engender panic and hysteria and undermine what the president's doing. That's what I think's critical," they argued.

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