Indiana's environmental agency may relax environmental enforcement for industries across the state, citing the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But critics of this policy change — and a similar one at the federal level — fear it has the potential to do more harm than good: They worry industry could take advantage of the relaxed rules and potentially further endanger those who are already susceptible to the spreading disease by exacerbating respiratory illnesses.
"We are talking about a respiratory illness here. I don’t want that to go unsaid," said Janet McCabe, a former air quality official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Barack Obama and at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management before that.
"More air pollution," she said, "will make it harder for people with the virus to recover."
Several environmental and health experts said such information is important, particularly for the communities living around such facilities. That said, they also acknowledge the need to keep these facilities running during the pandemic.
"I understand why industries are essential – we need the power on or these products are used to make ventilators and other things that we need," said Gabe Filippelli, the director of IUPUI's Center for Urban Health. "But I simply didn’t see where there is a greater public health risk of maintaining regulations and enforcement as they are."