Will the EPA protect our air? Dont hold your breath.
Will the EPA protect our air? Don't hold your breath. 400tmax / Getty Images

Sure the air is smoky and beige today and it’s scary even to step foot outside. But it could be worse, apparently: The EPA just released a list of environmental actions taken earlier this year to prevent even more disastrous impacts on the local climate. From chemical exposure plans to hazardous spill procedures to releasing used motor oil, we’ve dodged a handful of proverbial bullets that would have made this wildfire season even more miserable.

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But before you throw a ticker-tape parade for the EPA (which you shouldn’t do anyway because, you know, virus and smoke), it’s probably worth mentioning that the agency also just finalized a new policy to allow power plants to dump more chemicals into waterways. Oh well. At least those evil polluting corporations will have to pay hefty fines that will surely dissuade them from any future… oh, wait, what’s that? The penalties are extremely low, in one case as little as $800? Oh.

Let’s start with the good news, what amount of it there is: The EPA is settling with six companies that violated various environmental laws around the state, fining them for multiple infractions. Wyckoff Farms and AmeriCold Logistics LLC will each pay $1,200 for failing to update their risk management plans, which emergency responders use to identify chemicals and emergency contacts. Maxum Petroleum in Bellingham will pay just under $5,000 for not updating its spill prevention plan. In Kent, Pacific Propeller International will pay about $66,000 for failing to report hazardous chemicals. And in Tacoma, EcoLube Recovery will pay around $27,000 for dumping dangerous materials into Commencement Bay, among other violations.

The smallest settlement goes to The Dalles Fruit Company—that’ll be an $800 fine for having an out-of-date emergency plan.

Meanwhile, the EPA just published new water pollution regulations, undoing 2015 protections and increasing the amount of toxic chemicals that coal power plants can dump. Not only that, but a bunch of power plants are now exempt from certain regulations altogether.

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This follows a court ruling in 2019, which found that even the 2015 regulations didn’t go far enough—and now here we are with something even worse.

Meanwhile three jurisdictions on the east coast are suing the EPA for failing to protect Chesapeake Bay from pollution, and a union in Chicago says the agency isn’t doing anything to address racial bias issues.

So, that’s all great, just phenomenal, great work everyone. I’d heave a heavy sigh but I can’t spare the oxygen right now.