WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the EPW Committee, released a statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and failed to refute the findings of Senator Carper’s staff report, A Pandemic of Pollution: How EPA Air Pollution Actions Taken Since March 1, 2020 Will Harm Public Health and Potentially Add To COVID-19 Risks, and refused to commit that the agency would examine and address the impacts of air pollution on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite calling the report, ‘misleading,’ at today’s hearing, EPA Administrator Wheeler failed to refute its fundamental conclusion that the dangerous air pollution rollbacks that EPA has pursued in just the past two months will kill thousands of people, and that many of the lower-income and minority communities most impacted by air pollution are also experiencing the worst outcomes of COVID-19. Despite calling the report ‘a pandemic of political propaganda,’ EPA Administrator Wheeler failed to disprove the facts underlying it. Mr. Wheeler even acknowledged that air pollution increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes – two of the known risk factors associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes – but continued to cast doubt on emerging science while refusing to commit that the agency would undertake its own. Despite his staggering assertions that EPA’s recent actions will lead to cleaner air and his dubious claim that ‘all of our rules make things better,’ Administrator Wheeler could not – and cannot – dispel the multitude of evidence that shows the agency’s recent actions will lead to more polluted air and thousands of additional deaths amid an already deadly pandemic.
“Perhaps most disappointing of all was Administrator Wheeler’s refusal to commit to examining whether exposure to air pollution causes COVID-19 patients to have worse outcomes or more difficult recoveries, and to factor the results of that research into EPA’s future regulations. EPA has a critical mission to protect human health and the environment. The agency is charged with undertaking environmental research that can help us better understand the way this disease is impacted by weather, climate and pollution. Perhaps most important of all, the agency is charged with protecting everyone in this country from breathing unsafe air. At a time when almost 2 million Americans have suffered or died from a virulent respiratory disease, this refusal represents a total dereliction of duty.”
Emerging evidence indicates that adverse outcomes from COVID-19 are disproportionately experienced by residents of low income and minority communities, which typically experience higher exposures to air and water pollution than others and bear a higher burden of disease due to many other contributing factors.
Despite this evidence, since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a public health emergency in March 2020, 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.
Senator Carper’s staff report summarizes 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.