On CPR's April 29, 2020, webinar, participants will hear from leading experts on pandemics, public health, and climate change, as part of our series of Climate Justice webinars. Dr. Monica Schoch-Spana is an expert in epidemic and disaster management, with decades of experience advising federal, state, and local officials on health security. Dr. Aaron Bernstein brings experience as a pediatrician on the front lines and cutting-edge expertise on the intersection of public health and climate change. Finally, seasoned environmental lawyer and CPR Member Scholar Daniel Farber offers expertise in legal and policy tools, such as the Stafford Act, that may be used to help protect vulnerable communities from bearing the greatest burden of the pandemic.
In the Boston Globe, Shalanda Baker and colleagues write that "The announcement that Carney Hospital in Dorchester would become the country’s first dedicated COVID-19 hospital was largely hailed as a welcome expansion of hospital capacity in response to the outbreak. This hospital normally serves as a safety net for low-income residents in Dorchester.... Although it is unclear whether [this and similar hospital sitings] put the surrounding communities at greater risk of infection, they follow a broader pattern emerging in COVID-19 hot spots. As New York, Boston, and other jurisdictions decide where to erect makeshift hospitals, stakeholders must remain vigilant regarding this pattern of burdening low-income communities and communities of color. This oversight is especially needed in the case of for-profit entities.
In April 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruled in favor of Hawaiian environmentalists who had waged a 12-year battle to ensure that sewage discharged into the Pacific Ocean via groundwater was subject to a Clean Water Act permit. CPR’s Member Scholars played important roles in convincing the Justices that we need a more scientifically relevant conception of the Clean Water Act’s coverage, and they joined key participants in the litigation in a May 28, 2020, webinar on the topic.
Writing in The Advocate (Baton Rouge and New Orleans), Member Scholar Karen Sokol observes that, " During the pandemic, the [energy] industry is using its 'critical infrastructure' status to further accelerate its polluting activities. The industry asked the Trump administration for an indefinite suspension of its obligations to comply with basic environmental and public health protections even though communities near polluting facilities have suffered higher death rates from COVID-19. The administration responded quickly, depriving communities of these vital safeguards with no clear date for reinstating them."
Read a fact sheet from CPR, Fair Farms, Sentinels of Eastern Shore Health, and the Sussex Health and Environmental Network prepared for a hearing of the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee. The hearing focused on the environmental justice impacts of COVID-19 on the Delmarva Peninsula.
Writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, CPR's Joel Mintz connects the dots between the Trump administration's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, its efforts to undercut health care policy, and its attacks on environmental safeguards.
Writing for Just Security Rebecca Bratspies discusses efforts by Senate Republicans to amend the law to allow lawsuits against China related to the spread of the coronavirus, noting that conservatives have in the past been generally hostile to tort litigation in the past. She goes on to discuss the implications of the Trail Smelter Arbitration between Canada and the United States as it relates to coronavirus disputes.
CPR joined with other members of the Chespeake Accountability Project, urging the Maryland Department of the Environment to gather and share information about polluters' alleged inability to comply with permit requirements because of the coronavirus pandemic, and to ensure strong whistleblower protections.
In May 2020, CPR joined with other organizations from the Chesapeake Accountability Project in a letter to Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles urging increased transparency during the pandemic. Having received no response, the group wrote again to urge that all compliance waivers granted/denied & claims of force majeure related to COVID-19 be made public. The letter also reiterates the importance of MDE providing strong and clear notice to permit holders of its expectations during the pandemic.