The Trump administration has decided to ease enforcement of environmental regulations covering some industries to help them cope with impacts from the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday.
While the brunt of the order is targeted at factories and other polluting industries, it will also make construction of pipelines, roads, and bridges much easier in terms of permits.
The decision follows requests by the construction groups and other industries for regulatory relief as governments around the world scramble to contain fallout from the pandemic, which has infected nearly a half a million people, decimated travel, and forced massive disruptions in daily life.
“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 press release.
The memo said the changes were retroactive to March 13.
Last week, the American Petroleum Institute asked U.S. President Donald Trump for temporary relief from regulatory requirements on the oil and gas industry to ensure steady fuel supplies during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a letter it sent to Trump seen by Reuters.
The group said it was mainly concerned that coronavirus would leave it with limited numbers of healthy staff to run critical operations - making it harder to comply with federal environmental and safety requirements.
The last time that these regulations were lifted by emergency order was in 2014 when the Obama administration allowed for the construction of a road that would rescue a population from a Hawaiian lava flow.