The coronavirus pandemic is providing President Trump and right-wing governors the ultimate excuse for shoving their pet projects and policies down our throats.
These three examples of this became evident in the last few days:
Citing the coronavirus, the Environmental Protection Agency announced March 26 a relaxation of environmental rules for power plants, factories and other facilities. -- The New York Times.
In Arizona, the federal government has launched a frenetic new phase of building Trump's border wall, which he says is especially necessary now to keep the coronavirus from spreading. -- The New York Times.
A growing number of Republican-led states are seeking to ban abortions during the coronavirus crisis, claiming it is an unnecessary medical procedure. -- The Washington Post.
The E.P.A.'s action, reported The Times, allows power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements for reporting air and water pollution. The decision followed requests from businesses for a relaxation of environmental regulations because of the impact of the coronavirus on their operations.
Under the plan, the EPA will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements.
The order say, “In general, the E.P.A. does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the E.P.A. agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the E.P.A. upon request.”
The ruling provides companies "an open license to pollute," said Gina McCrthy, who led the E.P.A. under the Obama administration and is now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This brazen directive is nothing short of an abject abdication of the E.P.A. mission to protect our well-being."
But the E.P.A. said the ruling does not give companies a free pass to pollute.
“It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules,” Andrea Woods, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, told The Times. “For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis.”
President Trump contends that his famed and cherished wall will help prevent the spread of coronavirus from Mexico into the US.
"We need the Wall more than ever!" he tweeted earlier this month. That, of course, is contrary to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which says such a barrier would not mitigate outbreaks of the virus.
In fact, in Arizona, there are fears the wall actually will make the situation worse.
As construction work continues along the border, it is raising fears among many locals that the growing influx of construction workers increases their risk of exposure. And, some disease specialists warn that workers could spread the virus further when they return to their families in other areas of the country.
“This administration’s priority is to get the wall done. The rest of us might as well be damned,” said Maria Singleton, 57, who has documented in Facebook posts how wall construction is affecting Ajo, her hometown, with traffic, noise, dust and, now, new worries about catching a deadly disease.
According to The Times, Arizona is facing a surge of coronavirus cases and the governor has just issued a stay-at-home order, except for essential businesses, which in his state, include golf courses, nail salons and pawn shops.
The Washington Post's report notes several states are taking advantage of the coronavirus to clamp down on abortions.
A federal appeals court ruled this week that Texas can temporarily prohibit abortions from taking place, upholding a March 22 executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that halted all procedures deemed not "immediately medically necessary" to save a life. According to the state's attorney general, that includes abortion.
Ohio was the first state to prevent abortions by classifying them as medically unnecessary, but Planned Parenthood sued and a federal judge suspended the ban. A similar ban was suspended in Alabama by a district court judge until arguments from both sides can be heard next week. Meanwhile, lawsuits are pending in Iowa and Oklahoma.
Said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, "This lawsuit, from Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups, demands an exception to prioritize abortion over all other health care in the midst of the covid-19 emergency in our state. It attacks the governor's executive order which preserves limited health care resources and medical safety equipment, in blatant disregard of the escalating illness and death this pandemic is inflicting on Oklahomans."
Other states that are trying to use the coronavirus to ban abortions include Indiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi.
But abortion providers said they are ready for the legal battles expected to come.
"I can say we are going to be taking every legal option we have to keep the clinics open and if that means filing for extreme relief at the Supreme Court, that's what we will do," said Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Get the picture?
As if the situation was not sufficiently dire, we must now contend with irresponsible, cynical, and opportunistic actions by Trump and his conservative Republican pals who are taking advantage of this national emergency to get their way.