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EPA watchdog: Indiana monitored polluters 'substantially' less during the pandemic

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Courtesy of EPA OIG
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This map shows how states’ monitoring of major sources of pollution changed during the 2020 fiscal year compared to the historical average.

Environmental regulators around the country monitored industrial air polluters a bit less than usual last fiscal year because of the pandemic. But for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, that monitoring dropped by 28 percent.

That's according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General, which considered anything over 25 percent a "substantial decline."

George Czerniak is the former director of EPA’s Air and Radiation Division and worked in enforcement at the agency for 20 years.

“The effect is that neither the Indiana agency, the federal EPA, or the public will know — with any degree of certainty — whether or not the air is healthy to breathe," he said.

IDEM said it didn’t do any in-person evaluations at industrial plants in April because of the Stay-At-Home order. But it didn’t do them in May either after the order was lifted.

READ MORE: EPA to end relaxed environmental enforcement policy by September

The agency also didn’t do any remote evaluations last fiscal year — something many other states turned to when they couldn’t be there in-person. Czerniak said it’s likely some IDEM employees were working from home.

“Which would give them the ability to do a lot of the off-site monitoring activities like reviewing data and monitoring reports," he said.