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EPA soot proposal not enough, NY environmentalists say

A New York environmental group feels the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest regulations on soot in the air do not go far enough.

The new regulations would reduce fine particulate matter from 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air to between nine and 10.

Anastasia Gordon, energy and transportation policy manager for the group We Act for Environmental Justice, wants to see it reduced to eight micrograms. She thinks the daily standard for particulate matter, which the EPA is not changing, should be reduced as well, pointing to the health hazards air pollution can have.

“They get into your lungs. They get into your bloodstream. They cross the placenta, so they go to your unborn child and can cause preterm birth or infant mortality,” Gordon outlined. “Because it’s so small but deadly, it causes high rates of asthma and heart problems or heart disease.”

Along with the health effects, studies find people of color are disproportionately affected by air pollution. A 2021 study found the largest contributors to air pollution for people of color are industry, light-duty gasoline vehicles, and construction and heavy-duty diesel vehicles.

The standards were last updated in 2012, with the EPA required to review the latest science to update them every five years. In December 2020, the Trump administration declined to tighten the standards.

Patrick Drupp, director of climate policy for the Sierra Club, said while EPA Director Michael Regen has reopened the process, more stringent standards are needed.

“The EPA could save up to 20,000 lives per year based on their own science and their own analysis,” Drupp contended. “Adopting a more stringent standard, going from the low end of what they proposed of nine to what we’re asking for of no higher than eight can save an additional 4,000 lives.”

He added everyone has the right to breathe clean air, but the right is being denied to a lot of people across the U.S. While the EPA standard would lower air pollution, Drupp feels the U.S. should meet the World Health Organization’s annual standard. Their annual standard calls for fine particulate matter to be at five micrograms per cubic meter of air.