Ahead of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, top Democrat on the EPW Committee, released on May 20 a staff report summarizing the actions taken by the EPA to roll back air pollution protections during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the potential effects of those rollbacks on public health in light of emerging research that reports a link between exposure to air pollution and adverse outcomes from COVID-19.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a public health emergency in March, EPA has continued with its reckless deregulatory agenda without pause — in some cases, the agency has accelerated its agenda, rushing to finalize rules without adequate public input.

“While the rest of the country works around the clock to combat and overcome this deadly respiratory pandemic, the Trump EPA has been spearheading a pandemic of pollution,” said Carper.

“We are in a fight for our lives right now,” said Carper. “What we need is an EPA that harnesses all of its resources to help us better understand any links between air pollution and COVID-19 risks and takes steps to address them. Instead, what we have is an agency taking actions that will increase air pollution and put public health at even greater risk. In recent weeks, EPA has rolled back critical protections for public health under the guise of industry relief and economic growth. These actions are poised to make this fight for our lives all the more difficult and even more deadly.”

“Under normal circumstances, these rollbacks would be cause for grave concern,” said Carper. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, they are profoundly irresponsible and cause for alarm. EPA Administrator Wheeler must answer to the American people.”

Evidence has emerged indicating that adverse outcomes from COVID-19 are disproportionately experienced by residents of low income and minority communities. These same communities typically experience higher exposures to air and water pollution than others and bear a higher burden of disease due to many other contributing factors. As new research shows a nexus between climate change, increases in air pollution and greater adverse health outcomes among those most affected, this report describes: the connection between coronavirus outcomes and air pollution; the connection between climate change, air pollution and pandemics; and EPA rules that will increase air pollution proposed or finalized since March 1. Finally, the report provides recommendations that EPA should act on immediately to improve human health and the environment during this time.

The report, “A Pandemic of Pollution: How EPA Air Pollution Actions Taken Since March 1, Will Harm Public Health and Potentially Add To COVID-19 Risks,” can be found at bit.ly/3gdgstg.