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Amid COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers urge EPA to extend comment periods

Photo: Gromit702/iStockphoto

Washington — Claiming the Environmental Protection Agency is “rushing forward” with various regulations while much of the nation is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) recently sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, calling on the agency to extend all comment periods for matters related to public and environmental health at least 45 days past the end of the declared national emergency.

In the April 8 letter, Scott, McNerney, Quigley and 75 fellow lawmakers urge EPA to extend comment periods that closed from March 13 to the present, as well as those that remain open. The letter specifically mentions multiple agency items, including separate draft risk evaluations for trichloroethylene and asbestos – a known human carcinogen. At press time, comments on the documents were due April 27 and June 2, respectively.

“As the world continues to turn its collective attention to responding to the global coronavirus pandemic,” the letter states, “we write to express our deep concern that the EPA is proceeding with rulemaking procedures that do not ensure that ‘interested persons’ are afforded an ‘opportunity to participate,’ as is the expectation of the law.

“The American people have a right to expect that their government will protect the general welfare by basing regulations on the best available information, including input from impacted communities, scientists and other subject area experts, in accordance with requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. Rushing forward with these regulations as planned, in spite of this public health crisis, would be contrary to the spirit of the EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.”


Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, expressed similar concern about EPA’s timing in an April 1 press release responding to the agency’s request for public comment on its draft risk evaluation for asbestos. 

“Publishing this long-awaited proposal for public comment now – in the midst of a declared national emergency – shows just how out of touch the Trump administration is,” said Pallone, who is not among the group that sent the letter. “Americans and our public health community do not have the time right now to review and offer comment on this proposal.”

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