BALTIMORE (WJZ) — While the world has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has rolled back some environmental policies or decided not to enforce them.

Last week, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined a coalition of attorneys general in opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s policy of not enforcing bedrock monitoring and reporting obligations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enforcement has been suspended during the pandemic after requests from the oil and gas industry.

“This is covering because the Clean Water Act and The Clean Air Act depend on this monitoring and reporting to know who our biggest polluters are,“ Kate Breimann, of Environment Maryland, said.

Another change came in March when the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set new, lower emissions and fuel economy standards for vehicles with model years 2021 through 2026.

At the time, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler called the change “the right regulatory balance that protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry.”

“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to correct the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” he said in a news release in March.

Clean environment advocates, though, said the change could result in over an additional 900 million metric tons of greenhouse pollutants.

“That will increase pollution from our transportation sector quite a bit,” Breimann said.

Another concern for Alice Volpitta of Blue Water Baltimore is the suspension of city street sweeping which was done so residents working from home wouldn’t have to move their cars.

“Things like trash are the most obvious but there’s other pollutants that are entering our waterways like sediment that carries phosphorus which is feeding algae blooms and that’s what’s causing things like fish kills and this terrible smell that’s at the harbor right now,” Volpitta said.

Environment Maryland is among the groups urging Congress to make changes to require the EPA to enforce the rules on the book.

If you see pollution in the water, you can reach out to Blue Water Baltimore or call 311.

Stetson Miller

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