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EPA Limits Environmental Regulations During Coronavirus Crisis

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  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it is scaling back its enforcement of environmental rules during the coronavirus emergency as businesses face challenges like layoffs and accessibility issues.
  • The temporary policy allows companies to monitor their own compliance with environmental laws, and the EPA said it will not issue penalties for violations of certain reporting requirements.
  • Many critics slammed the move, arguing that it opens doors to excess pollution and does not prioritize the health and safety of people and wildlife.   
  • The EPA defended the policy, saying it has reserved its authorities for situations other than routine monitoring and reporting and will consider the pandemic’s impacts on a “case-to-case basis.”

Temporary Policy 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will limit the enforcement of certain regulations as the coronavirus pandemic continues, leaving companies in charge of monitoring their own compliance with environmental laws. 

The agency unveiled the temporary policy on Thursday, arguing that businesses are running into obstacles like layoffs and accessibility issues as the virus alters normal life across the nation.

“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,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.  

Under normal circumstances, companies must report when their facilities release a certain amount of pollution into the air or water. Now, that requirement will be put on hold for the time being. 

“In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request,” the policy states.

The agency also said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. It noted that the policy does not apply to criminal violations or hundreds of the country’s most toxic waste sites that fall under the Superfund act. The EPA also said it expects public water systems to maintain high standards. 

“Public water systems have a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the policy says.

The memo said that the changes will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, with no set end date indicated. 

Criticism of New Policy

Some, including people in the oil industry, had been asking for these regulations to be loosened, but others slammed the EPA’s choice, claiming it is too broad and lax. 

Gina McCarthy, who headed the EPA under the Obama administration and is now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the policy an “open license to pollute.” 

Some called the changes “outrageous” and “evil,” accusing the EPA of prioritizing businesses over the health of individuals and wildlife.

Prominent figures in the climate change fight slammed the move as well.

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

Others pointed out the irony of suspending rules that preserve air quality while a respiratory disease makes its rounds across the country. 

“What part of, ‘air pollution increases our vulnerability to respiratory diseases LIKE CORONAVIRUS,’ is not clear, EPA?” one Twitter user wrote.

Defense of Policy

The EPA stood behind their move and did not agree with its classification as a dismissal of regulations. 

“It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules,” Andrea Woods, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, told The New York Times. “For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis.”

Susan Parker Bodine, the EPA official who issued the policy, said that it does not excuse organizations from consequences if they do committ environmental violations.

“If you do have violations of your permit, you’re still obligated to meet your permit limits, you’re supposed to do everything possible,” Bodine told ABC. “And after the fact the agency will take that all into consideration but there isn’t a promise of no penalties in those kinds of situations.”

“If you have an acute risk, if you have an imminent threat … the facility has to come in and talk to their regulator, their authorized state or come into the agency,” she added. “And the reason for that is that we want to, we want to put all of our resources into keeping these facilities safe keeping communities safe.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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Suspect in Deadly Waukesha Parade Crash Faces 5 Homicide Charges

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The suspect, who killed five and injured 48 after driving through a parade with his SUV, has a long criminal history and was released on bail a week prior to the incident for allegedly running a woman over with the same vehicle.


Car Drives Into Waukesha Parade

The man suspected of killing at least five people and injuring another 48 after driving his car into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, faces five counts of homicide, police announced in a press briefing Monday.

Dance groups, high school bands, politicians, and other members of the Milwaukee suburb marched Sunday in the 58th annual Christmas parade, which was put on hold last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At about 4:40 p.m — just 40 minutes after the parade started — a red SUV plowed through barricades, sped down the parade route, and barrelled into dozens of people.

While speaking at Monday’s press conference, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson confirmed that the number of people hospitalized for injuries rose from 40 to 48 and includes two children who are in critical condition.

That figure differs from an earlier statement from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, which said six children of the 18 hospitalized there were in critical condition. 

Thompson named the victims who died, whose ages ranged from 52-81, and identified the suspect as a 39-year-old Milwaukee man.

According to Thompson, the suspect had been involved in a “domestic disturbance” involving a knife “just minutes prior.” The police chief went on to say that police were unable to respond to the initial call about that disturbance because they had to respond to the parade so soon after they got it. He also stressed that there was no police pursuit in action before the man plowed through the parade.

Thompson said that police are “confident” the man acted alone and found “no evidence this is a terrorist incident.” Still, he declined to say whether or not a motive was known.

In addition to the five intentional homicide charges police are recommending, Thompson noted that more charges may come as the investigation continues with assistance from the FBI.

Previous Criminal History and Questionable Bond

After the suspect’s name was released, reporters quickly found his lengthy criminal record dating back to 1999.

Court and police records show that, over the last 22 years, the suspect was charged or convicted with a wide range of crimes including domestic violence, battery, drug possession, and resisting arrest.

In addition to serving at least two jail sentences, he spent several years on probation as well as in court-mandated anger management programs.

Most recently, just six days before he drove through the parade, the suspect was freed on $1,000 bail after being accused of trying to run over the mother of his child with the same vehicle.

According to a police report seen by several outlets, the man in question was arrested on Nov. 2 when the woman accused him of punching her in the face then following her into the parking lot of a gas station with his SUV before running her over.

Officers wrote that they “observed tire tracks on her left pants leg”, as well as “swelling on her lip and dried blood on her face,” noting she was taken to the hospital after the incident.

Prosecutors charged the man with obstructing an officer, second-degree recklessly endangering safety with domestic abuse assessments, disorderly conduct with domestic abuse assessments, and misdemeanor battery with domestic abuse assessments.

He was also charged with bail jumping because he was already out on bail related to an incident in July 2020. In that case, he was charged with two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment of safety and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

While the suspect was initially facing a $10,000 bail, prosecutors agreed to release him on the $1,000 bail.

In a statement Monday, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office said it should not have recommended such a low bail and announced that it was launching an internal review into the matter.

The office also described the bail recommendation as “inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges” and added that it was “not consistent” with the office policy “toward matters involving violent crime” or “risk assessment of the defendant.”

The suspect is set to make his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon. The District Attorney’s office said it will file initial charges at that time.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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Armored Truck Spills Money on California Freeway, Triggering Cash-Grab Frenzy

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Authorities warned that those who took money illegally could be charged and should return what they collected immediately.


Truck Accidentally Spills Cash on Freeway

An armored truck dropped loads of cash onto a freeway in Southern California on Friday, causing drivers to hop out of their cars and scramble to scoop up some of the money. 

According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the money belongs to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

It scattered in Carlsbad along Interstate 5 near Cannon road when one of the truck’s doors popped open, allowing bags of cash to fall out. Footage of the chaos that happened afterward has since been posted to social media by people like fitness influencer Demi Bagby, who has over 14 million TikTok followers.

Her footage shows traffic at a standstill as people laugh and rush to grab armfuls of what appear to be mostly $1 and $20 bills.

@demibagby

this is the most insane thing I have ever seen

♬ original sound – Demi Bagby

Authorities Warn Thieves of Potential Charges

As many online pointed out, these people were actually committing a crime by taking off with the money.
Later that same day, CHP announced that it was working with the FBI to retrieve any money that was illegally taken.

“I highly suggest to anybody that picked up cash out here — it’s not your cash, so turn it in immediately to the CHP office in Vista,” CHP Sgt. Curtis Martin told reporters.

By mid-afternoon, about a dozen people went to the department to hand in what they had collected, though it’s unclear exactly how much was taken and returned.

Authorities also said they arrested a man and woman at the scene after they locked themselves out of their car with cash in hand.

By Friday night, law enforcement officials thanked those who had already come forward, adding that investigators were now planning to track down those who failed to do so using social media posts that showed their faces and license plates.

In fact, authorities later released 16 photos and videos still frames of people who stole cash, saying that they
are encouraged to turn in the money within 48 hours in order to avoid potential criminal charges.”

See what others are saying: (NBC)(NPR)(The Los Angeles Times)

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House Passes $2 Trillion Spending Bill

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The package, which provides historic levels of funding for key policy areas, now faces an uphill battle in the Senate.


Historic Legislation Clears First Hurdle

After months of negotiation, the House on Friday approved the $2 trillion social safety net and climate spending package at the center of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.

The legislation, dubbed the Build Back Better Act, was passed by a vote of 220 to 213 along near party lines. Just one Democrat voted against the measure.

Republicans remained in their unified opposition to the bill, and its passage was delayed after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) took to the floor to speak for over eight hours through the night, setting a new record for the longest continuous House speech in modern history.

The package represents a massive overhaul of American education, healthcare, climate, and tax laws that, in some instances, provides historic levels of funding for key policy areas.

Among other measures, the bill would allocate $550 billion in clean energy investments, an amount that the White House said represents the largest federal expenditures in initiatives to combat climate change.

Some of the biggest funding areas also center around education, including a provision that would provide universal free pre-kindergarten for all 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, which the White House has described as the most significant expansion in such education programs since public schools were first created nearly half a century ago.

The universal pre-k program is part of a broader $400 billion in funding aimed at making childcare more affordable by ensuring that families earning under $300,000 annually will not have to spend more than 7% of their income on childcare for any children under six.

On top of that, the bill will implement affordable health care changes that are estimated to extend coverage to an additional 7 million Americans through expansions to Medicaid and further reductions in the costs of premiums for plans bought under the Affordable Care Act.

Most of the spending proposed in the act would be paid for by taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans. The legislation puts forward a 5% surtax on taxpayers with incomes above $10 million and an added 3% on incomes above $25 million.

For corporations, a 50% minimum tax on foreign profits would be levied, and companies that bring in more than $1 billion in profits would face a 15% minimum tax.

A Long Road Ahead

The $2 trillion price tag falls short of the initial $3.5 trillion that Biden had asked for, but even with the pared-down spending, the package still faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.

Democratic leaders have said they intend to pass the legislation through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with a simple majority and thus, no Republican support.

That plan, however, would require all 50 Democrats to sign on. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), however, have continually sought to negotiate down many elements of the Build Back Better proposal and so far have withheld their endorsements of the House bill.

Manchin has expressed his opposition to a provision in the bill that would give four weeks of paid family and medical leave for most American workers who are not already offered the options. 

Meanwhile, Sinema has not made her specific objections clear. She instead has voiced general grievances regarding broad spending and tax hikes on high-income earners.

The two moderate Democrats have already forced months of negotiations that resulted in the House version of the package being scaled down significantly, but additional efforts to further prune the act will likely risk alienating more progressive Democrats, whose votes are as equally essential to final passage.

Democrats will also need to make sure their package follows the strict rules outlined under the reconciliation process, which requires that all provisions have a direct fiscal impact and has already forced Democrats to drop certain wishlist plans, including providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Despite the daunting hurdles, Democratic leaders said they hope to pass a final version of the act before the end of the year, though they may be delayed by a series of pressing fiscal deadlines.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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