The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing a request from the oil and gas industry.
The request involves easing the enforcement of hazardous air and water pollution and other regulatory issues during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The proposal is drawing objections from public health and environmental advocates, reported the New York Times.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) made the request in a letter to President Donald Trump and then to the EPA, citing potential staffing issues during the outbreak and asserting that worker shortages could make compliance with a range of regulations difficult, such as monitoring, reporting and immediately fixing hazardous air emissions.
“The oil and natural gas industry needs to maintain safe and reliable operations, taking into consideration that there may be limited personnel capacity to manage the full scope of the current regulatory requirements,” API President Mike Sommers wrote in the letter to Trump.
Another letter, this time from API’s senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs, Frank Macchiarola, laid out more specific requests from the group to the agency, including: delay requirements for greenhouse gas reporting; providing flexibility on monitoring sampling and analysis required for drinking water permits; and adding certain delays or deferrals to pollution monitoring.
Macchiarola also asked for deferred monitoring and delayed reporting of detection and repair for certain leaks, reported the Hill.
According to EPA spokesman Corry Schiermeyer, the agency is evaluating the request.
"The agency understands that the COVID-19 response poses many challenges to our partners and appreciates all they are doing to plan and prepare," said Schiermeyer.
According to a former assistant administrator for the EPA enforcement office from 2009 to 2017, the EPA policy explicitly prohibits the agency from promising waiving of enforcement of environmental and public health laws.
The request also comes as Saudi Arabia and Russia wage a crude-oil price war, reported the New York Times.