Energy & Environment

Congressional Democrats call on EPA to tighten proposed soot standards

File - Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., speaks about climate change during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Oct. 7, 2021, in Washington.
Alex Brandon/Associated Press
File – Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., speaks about climate change during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Oct. 7, 2021, in Washington.

More than 80 congressional Democrats, led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), urged the Biden administration to strengthen proposed rules on soot pollution in a letter Tuesday.

The letter calls the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) January proposal, which would set the standard for fine particulate matter in the air at 9 to 10 micrograms per cubic meter, insufficient; instead they call for a standard of eight instead. This standard, the members wrote, is in keeping with the recommendations of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. The committee has said the higher standard would save double the amount of lives annually by 2032.

“The federal government has an obligation to remediate environmental injustices that for too long have been shouldered most by Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities across our country,” Markey said in a statement.

“No one should have to breathe unhealthy, toxic pollution on their doorstep or in their backyard,” he added. “EPA has an opportunity this year to strengthen our nation’s air quality standards, save countless lives, and put health and environmental justice front-and-center in our fight against toxic pollution.”

Markey co-led the letter with Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.).

The EPA’s proposed rule, announced in January, is itself a tighter limit than the standard of 12 micrograms implemented in 2012 under the Obama administration, which the Trump administration opted to leave in place in 2020. Markey and his colleagues are not the first to call the proposed Biden standards inadequate.

Soot pollution exposure has been linked to premature deaths and heart and lung issues. It is a particular concern among environmental justice advocates as it disproportionately impacts low-income and minority communities.

After the January announcement, environmental organizations also called for the stricter 8-microgram standards. The Environmental Defense Fund said in a report that this standard would save about 15,000 more lives a year than 10 micrograms, the looser interpretation of the proposed new EPA standard.

The World Health Organization has gone further, calling for a standard of 5 micrograms.

“We’ve received the letter and will respond through appropriate channels,” EPA spokesperson Khanya Brann told The Hill in an email.

Tags Biden administration Ed Markey Ed Markey energy policy Joe Biden

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