Facing up to COVID-19

EM – July 2021: This month, EM considers topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably, experiences and lessons learned from federal and state policies addressing regulatory flexibility, compliance, enforcement, monitoring, permitting, and reporting.
by Richard Wayland and John Kinsman

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most dangerous and unique challenges the world has faced in recent history. A human crisis with severe health and socio-economic consequences, the virus has required unprecedented responses. The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges in the future. The authors who participated in this issue evaluate the impacts of the shutdown/slowdown on air quality in the United States and potential links between changing air quality, COVID-19, and public health. The authors also discuss state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory actions during the pandemic. The articles highlight the challenges of layering COVID-19 impacts and considerations on top of already complex air, health, and regulatory issues and processes. Two things are clear—the importance of not jumping to early conclusions and also the importance of being adaptable in dealing with uncertainties and challenges.

The first article by Brett Gantt, et al. of EPA provides some initial insights into the air quality changes that came about during the pandemic and offers some thoughts as to why the changes were not as consistent across locations as one might have expected. 

Next, Hanna Boogaard, et al. of HEI note that the pandemic has created unprecedented conditions that lend themselves to timely and novel air pollution research. In this article, the authors describe recent progress in this area and illustrates some of the opportunities and challenges often encountered in this type of research. 

In the next article, Donald Welsh of ECOS discusses the challenges for environmental agencies to maintain their programs to protect public health and the environment with social distancing requirements forcing the closure of offices and travel restrictions. 

We close out this issue with an article by Evan Belser of EPA that provides some general insight into the management of enforcement during a pandemic. 

Continue reading the full July 2021 issue of EM.


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