EPA watchdog to review state and local air monitoring compliance during pandemic

December 16, 2020

The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will evaluate how the COVID-19 pandemic affected air compliance monitoring activities at state and local agencies.

The EPA OIG said it will work on a new report that evaluates how those agencies monitor facilities that emit air pollution for compliance with the Clean Air Act and federal air regulations.

In the early days of the pandemic, the EPA and many state environmental agencies, like the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, issued new enforcement discretion policies that would allow changes in some monitoring and enforcement policies due to hardships created by the pandemic.

The OIG will evaluate the pandemic’s impact on the number and type of compliance monitoring activities taken by state and local agencies, what guidance the EPA provided those agencies to target or prioritize compliance monitoring activities and determine how those agencies carried out that guidance.

The OIG evaluation comes just after another federal report found that funding for state monitoring programs has decreased by about 20% since 2004 and some existing monitor sites are in disrepair.

The Government Accountability Office reported that several state and local agencies said the shelters that housed air monitoring equipment were up to 30 years old and in poor condition. Some shelters suffered damage from termites and ants . Funding problems have led to roof repairs with rubber cement and equipment protected from rain with plastic sheets.

A Reuters investigation also found major deficiencies in air monitoring networks across the country. Air monitors routinely missed major pollution events, including refinery explosions.

EPA watchdog to review state and local air monitoring compliance during pandemic