Citing Increased Coronavirus Risks, N.H. Delegation Pushes Back On Navy, EPA Decisions | New Hampshire Public Radio

Citing Increased Coronavirus Risks, N.H. Delegation Pushes Back On Navy, EPA Decisions

Apr 14, 2020

Credit Scrumshus via Wikimedia Commons

Members of New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation say they’re worried that two new federal decisions - from the Navy and the Environmental Protection Agency - will increase risks related to COVID-19. 

The EPA announced today that it will not tighten air pollution limits on fine particulate matter, despite staff recommendations to do so.

A recent Harvard study linked exposure to even a small increase in this kind of pollution to a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

In a letter to the EPA, seeking a response by April 21, Sen. Maggie Hassan and Senate colleagues say they're worried about pandemic risks from this decision and from a recent rollback of fuel economy standards for vehicles.

The senators' letter asks the EPA for details on how it will enforce air pollution rules during the pandemic. They also want to know if and how federal agencies are considering the potential link between poor air quality and COVID-19 risk.  

Members of Congress from New Hampshire and Maine are also raising alarm about paid leave options for Navy personnel affected by COVID-19, including at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.

The Navy had previously said workers who were sick or at risk from COVID-19 could take administrative leave, but now says affected workers will have to use their own accrued leave.

In a letter to defense officials Tuesday, the delegations say that at a minimum, Navy workers who are sick with coronavirus should not have to use their own paid leave to stay home.

To date, six Navy personnel have died of the virus, including one civilian worker at the shipyard in Kittery.