By Burak Bir
ANKARA (AA) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws is allowing the Trump administration and petrochemical companies to engage in "disaster capitalism," according to an American environmentalist.
On Thursday, the EPA told companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Bill McKibben, who is also an author and co-founder of global climate advocate group 350.org, said Donald Trump’s administration and some companies are taking advantage of the situation.
"I think it's clear that the Trump administration and the petrochemical industries are engaging in what [journalist and author] Naomi Klein has called disaster capitalism: taking a bad situation and using it to make some easy money. It's disgusting," he said.
Klein, an award-winning journalist, is the author of the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, published in 2007.
In a statement, however, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the agency is committed to protecting human health as well as the environment and this policy change is not permanent.
"This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment," Wheeler said.
Under the Trump administration, the EPA has been criticized by environmentalists from time to time on the occasion of its policy changes.
"The Trump administration has been trying to roll back the EPA's authority and funding by arguing that the states will pick up the slack and keep our air and water clean," Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement in December, referring to the project's report which said some 4,400 U.S. government positions in bodies responsible for protecting the environment have been cut over the last few years.
At least 2,430 people have died so far from the novel coronavirus in the U.S. and the number of cases have risen to over 139,600, with 2,661 recoveries.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 177 countries and territories, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
The data shows over 716,100 cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll over 33,800 and more than 149,000 recoveries.