EDF Experts at Public Hearing – It Is “Crucial” That EPA Strengthen Safeguards for Soot

May 21, 2020
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – May 21, 2020) Experts from Environmental Defense Fund joined hundreds of Americans from around the country at a public hearing today and asked EPA to strengthen protections against particle pollution, or PM2.5 – commonly called soot. EPA is now considering a proposal that would leave America’s inadequate particle pollution standard in place.

“I am testifying today because the proposal to retain the current PM2.5 standard falls short of EPA’s charge to protect human health and the environment by blatantly ignoring the body of scientific evidence that clearly demonstrates the need for a more protective standard,” said EDF fellow Taylor Bacon in her testimony. “For the sake of millions of Americans, it is crucial that EPA revises this proposal to strengthen the standard and implement meaningful, science-based health protections.”

The particle pollution standard is one of America’s core public health safeguards. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA must review the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particle pollution every five years, and must establish a standard that protects public health with a margin of safety to protect vulnerable populations. A large body of health science studies show that our current annual threshold – 12 micrograms per cubic meter, set in 2012 – needs strengthening to protect public health and prevent thousands of premature deaths. In spite of that evidence, last month EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler formally proposed to leave the current, inadequate standard in place.

EDF senior health scientist Ananya Roy, an environmental epidemiologist, testified about the consequences of EPA’s proposal.

“The health harms of fine particulate matter are far reaching, even below the current standard. [Particle pollution] causes heart disease, diabetes, and lung cancer. It restricts the growth of children’s lungs, increases risk of asthma attacks; increases hospitalizations and emergency room visits; and eventually results in premature death. An estimated 85,000 deaths were due to [particle pollution] exposure across the country in 2017,” said Roy. “EPA’s proposal to keep the current, inadequate particulate matter standards in place is unacceptable.”

“EPA’s legal obligations during a review of the national ambient air quality standards are clear. The Clean Air Act requires the Administrator to set the primary, health-based standard at a level that is ‘requisite to protect the public health,’ ” said EDF senior attorney Rachel Fullmer in her testimony. “The standard must be set at a level that not only protects the average member of the population, but also guards against adverse effects in vulnerable subpopulations, such as children, seniors, disadvantaged socioeconomic populations, people with heart and lung disease and others particularly vulnerable to air pollution.”

More than 230 people have signed up to testify at the public hearing, which is being held by phone because of the new coronavirus crisis. Testimony will also take place tomorrow and Wednesday May 27th.

EPA is also accepting public comments on the proposal for an unusually short 60-day period. Prior proposals related to National Ambient Air Quality standards had 90-day comment periods.

“It is manifestly unreasonable and dangerous to take an action of such great importance to our nation’s public health and allow the public only 60 days to comment on the proposal,” said Fullmer in her testimony.

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