Responding to COVID-19

Large group of people as seen from above. Credit: Stockernumber2 / iStock

Stronger together

The public health and economic crisis created by COVID-19 and the drastic measures taken to flatten the curve of the virus to protect the public impacts all of us. Many of the people and families hardest hit right now already bear the brunt of the climate crisis and water and air pollution and have seen systematic disinvestment in their communities for decades. This crisis requires a massive response from all levels of government and our society.

  • The response must be focused on relief for people, not corporate bailouts, and must invest in public health
  • Congress must directly invest in our most vulnerable neighbors and communities
  • We must not give handouts to industries, like the fossil fuel industry, that have polluted our air and water for decades while pushing our climate to the brink
  • Any corporations getting bailed-out must clean up their act and reduce the harm they cause to our water, air, climate, and public health
  • Any response must also uphold our existing bedrock laws like the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act
  • We should use this as an opportunity to invest in the future -- clean energy, more transit options, and more

Clean Water Action stands in solidarity with our allies fighting for economic justice, racial justice, and more. We're continuing to work in coalition to find safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, end plastic pollution, protecting our water ,and uplifting our communities. Below are the statements and letters we have joined. This page will be updated as we sign on to more coalitions and letters.

EPA's Waiver on Enforcement and Penalties Will Put Our Health and Communities at Risk

We, the undersigned 152 fenceline community, environmental justice, health, faith, worker, business, conservation, and other concerned organizations, are writing to express our outrage with the policy issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 26, 2020, titled “COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program.” This indiscriminate advance waiver of enforcement and penalties for essential health and safety requirements at tens of thousands of polluting and hazardous facilities will unnecessarily endanger workers and the public, without any application, disclosure, or other oversight required by facilities or the agency.

EPA issued its memo just days after a request from the American Petroleum Institute, and the policy includes exceptions from a laundry list of requirements that the chemical and oil industries have opposed for some time. While we understand that worker shortages may be a reality at the moment, EPA’s policy goes far beyond reasonable and appropriate accommodation to the current situation. By providing for waiver of enforcement actions and penalties for violations of critical worker and public protections, with no submission of evidence required and no time limit, the policy invites facilities to shirk essential responsibilities to protect health and safety without consequence. The policy is so broad that it allows EPA to waive enforcement even if suspension of otherwise required activities causes an “imminent threat” to health or the environment. Read the full letter herePDF icon LetterEPAEnforcementApril2020.pdf

Providing Access to Water and Investing in Our Water Infrastructure

As the nation grapples with the worst public health and economic crisis we have seen in a century, Congress must take action to ensure that everyone in this country has access to the clean water they need to keep their families safe. The global COVID-19 pandemic has magnified and exacerbated the existing challenges facing our water systems and the inequities blocking access to clean, safe water. Since the CDC saysi one of the most important tools for combatting the novel coronavirus is to wash your hands and clean and disinfect your home, access to clean water can literally mean life or death. Too many communities, especially low income and communities of color, suffer from failing water infrastructure, polluted water supplies, unaffordable water rates, and many other water issues that make it even more difficult to survive in this time of chaos and crisis. Yet, despite three coronavirus response packages passed so far, no provisions have been included to provide clean water to those who lack it. Read the full letter here.

Objecting to blanket EPA Waivers for Polluters During the COVID-19 Crisis

Dear Assistant Administrator Bodine: We write to oppose EPA’s apparent plan to waive certain environmental compliance requirements for petrochemical plants and other polluting industries in response to the coronavirus. While it may be reasonable in limited circumstances for EPA to exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis to temporarily refrain from enforcement where the pandemic has clearly undermined a facility’s ability to comply, we oppose any blanket or advance waiver of environmental requirements for several reasons. Read the full letter here

Transit Emergency Relief Funding

We are organizations representing public transit riders, public transit workers, environmental justice communities, and other constituencies across the United States. We advocate for transit systems that are affordable and accessible to all, provide good family-supporting jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from our transportation system. We urge you to increase the allocation for emergency assistance to public transit in the proposed next round of economic stimulus to address the coronavirus crisis and its economic impact. Public transit provides a lifeline to communities in crisis. Much as water, electricity, sanitation, and food distribution services are essential to maintain during the pandemic, we must keep buses, subways, and other forms of transit running safely. Essential workers such as doctors, nurses, and sanitation workers must get to their life saving work. Read the full letter here.

Protect People -- Don't Bail Out the Fossil Fuel Industry

On behalf of our millions of supporters and members, we ask that future legislation, including a comprehensive infrastructure bill, put people first —especially the 22 million-plus newly unemployed —and that not a single cent be given to polluters. We must ensure a just and equitable recovery. Read the full letter here.

A Moratorium on Electric and Water Shutoffs

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide, we, the undersigned 577 organizations—including energy democracy and justice, environmental justice, utility justice, environmental, faith, labor, health advocate, consumer advocate, and legal educational organizations—write with deep concern about the impacts of the coronavirus national emergency on the access to electricity, water, and other basic utility services for millions of low-wealth households. The coronavirus pandemic is already resulting in the widespread loss of wages and jobs across the country and will disproportionately impact low-wealth households. As these losses impact the ability of families to pay for essential utility services, access to electricity and running water for handwashing are crucial to protect households and our communities from the spread of disease. Read the full letter here

5 Principles for Just COVID-19 Relief and Stimulus

The COVID-19 pandemic demands swift and unprecedented action from the federal government. The depth of the crisis and the scope of the response mean that choices being made right now will shape our society for years, if not decades to come. As policymakers take steps to ensure immediate relief and long-term recovery, it is imperative that they consider the interrelated crises of wealth inequality, racism, and ecological decline, which were in place long before COVID-19, and now risk being intensified. This is a time to be decisive in saving lives, and bold in charting a path to a genuinely healthier and more equitable future through a just recovery. Learn more here

Relief for People, Not the Fossil Fuel Industry

On behalf of our millions of members, supporters, and workers, we the undersigned strongly support your efforts to respond to the COVID-19 global public health crisis and its economic ramifications and believe that any government economic stimulus package or supplemental funding in response at least should not exacerbate two other ongoing crises – climate change and environmental injustice – and rather should advance solutions that boost economic recovery and tackle those two crises as well. Read the full letter herePDF icon Protect-People-Dont-Bail-Out-Fossil-Fuel-Polluters_April-20-2020.pdf

Supporting Emergency Transit Funding

Due to the economic slowdown brought on by the spread of the novel coronavirus, many sectors of our economy are in need of financial support. Social distancing and reduced demand for certain public services are having, and will continue to have, a negative impact on many agency operating budgets, including public transit.

We strongly urge Congress to provide public transit agencies with at least $12.875 billion in immediate direct financial assistance to ensure the continuation of safe and reliable service, including when the public health crisis has subsided but agency budgets are still experiencing strain. Read the full letter here

Opposing a Bailout for the Cruise Industry

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide, we write to voice our strong opposition to any assistance for the cruise industry to address the rapid drop-off of worldwide travel due to the coronavirus. Any bailout should be focused on providing relief to impacted workers and affected communities, not the industry itself. Providing U.S. taxpayer dollars to massive foreign cruise ship corporations that pollute our environment, take advantage of tax loopholes, and flag ships in foreign countries would allow the cruise industry to return to business as usual, which is unacceptable. This polluting and destructive foreign industry does not deserve a bailout from American taxpayers, especially not in the middle of a national health emergency. Further, in 2018 the top three executives of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings collected a total of $48,500,000 in compensation. This is hardly a figure showing that this industry needs a bailout. Read the full letter here

Pausing Public Comment Period

Due to the emerging health crisis in the United States and beyond, and the recent executive order declaring a state of national emergency on March 13, 2020, we request a formal pause on all open public comment periods1 on active rulemakings and non-rulemaking notices from the Department of Interior (DOI) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), primarily managed by the Federal Register and Regulations.gov, as well as the ePlanning and Planning, Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) sites for the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service, respectively. Read the full letter here

COVID-19 Relief and Recovery: Guiding Principles to Secure Our Water Future

Water is the lifeblood of our communities and our economy. We know water is playing an essential role in our health and well-being during the public health crisis brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Clean, affordable, and accessible water service is fundamental to public health and thriving communities. Modern treatment processes are intended to ensure all viruses, including COVID-19, stay out of the water supply. Water and wastewater systems are one of the greatest public health achievements in this country and cannot be taken for granted. The challenges facing water systems in a time of crisis will affect communities differently—those already in the midst of ongoing economic, environmental, and public health challenges may be hardest hit. Read more here.

Extending the comment period on EPA's Secret Science rule

In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic that demands the full attention of scientists and health professionals across the globe, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published a second proposal aimed at limiting its use of science—a proposal that threatens to undermine critical protections for human health and the environment. Remarkably, the agency has also granted members of the public a mere thirty days to submit their comments on the rule—an inadequate amount of time given the scope of the rulemaking and the constraints imposed by the current crisis. On behalf of 36 environmental and public-health organizations, we ask the EPA to withdraw the proposed rule and renew its commitment to protecting the wellbeing of all Americans. Read more here.

 

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