March 28, 2023

Van Hollen, Markey, Blunt Rochester, Barragán Call for Stronger Air Quality Standards to Curb Deadly Soot Pollution

Letter urges EPA to act on its own data, doubling number of lives saved within ten years

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.) and Nanette Barragán (Calif.-44) in writing to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan urging EPA to strengthen the proposed air quality standards to reduce fine particulate matter pollution, also known as soot pollution, and protect communities from its related health issues, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease, infant mortality, and premature death. Toxic air pollution disproportionately impacts people of color, frontline environmental justice communities, and lower-income neighborhoods that are already bearing the brunt of environmental injustice. In January, EPA announced its proposal to update existing air quality standards and is currently accepting public comment.

Specifically, the letter underscored the need for EPA to finalize an annual, health-based air quality standard of eight micrograms per cubic meter and a 24-hour, science-based standard of 25 micrograms per cubic meter, as opposed to EPA’s current proposal of nine and 35 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively. According to EPA’s own independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, adopting the recommended annual standard of eight micrograms per cubic meter would save more than twice as many lives in the year 2032 as EPA’s proposed standard.

In their letter to EPA Administrator Reagan, the lawmakers wrote, “Strengthening particle pollution standards will improve air quality from coast to coast and will start to address historic inequities and injustices in communities suffering from cumulative exposure to multiple pollutants.”

The letter continued, “People and their families have waited far too long to breathe healthy air. The science is clear and we urge you to move swiftly to finalize these standards so that we can finally begin to achieve the promise of clean air for everyone.”

Additional signatories include Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Pete Aguilar (CA-33), Jim Clyburn (SC-06), Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Steny Hoyer (MD-05), Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-03), Donald Beyer (VA-08), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Troy Carter (LA-02), Greg Casar (TX-35), Katherine Castor (FL-14), Yvette Diane Clarke (NY-09), Stephen I. Cohen (TN-09), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Danny K. Davis (IL-09), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Debbie Dingell (MI-06), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Jim Himes (CT-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Glenn Ivey (MD-04), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03), Mike Levin (CA-49), Doris Matsui (CA-07), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Brittany Pettersen (CO-07), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Schiff (CA-30), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Adam Smith, (WA-09), Darren Soto (FL-09), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Shri Thanedar (MI-13), Dina Titus (NV-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Norma Torres (CA-35), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), David Trone (MD-06), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24), Donald Payne (NJ-10), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Alma S. Adams (NC-12), Colin Allred (TX-32), Becca Balint (VT), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Ami Bera (CA-06), Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Shontel Brown (OH-11), Nikki Budzinski (IL-13), Cori Bush (MO-01), Yadira Caraveo (CO-08), Matt Cartwright (PA-08),  Ed Case (HI-01), Sean Casten (IL-06), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Judy Chu, David Cicilline (CA-27), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Luis Correa (CA-46), Jim Costa (CA-21), Joseph Courtney (CT-02), Angela Craig (MN-02), Jason Crow (CO-06), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Don Davis (NC-01), Dean Madeleine (PA-04), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Christopher Deluzio (PA-17), Llyod Doggett (TX-35), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Anna Eshoo (CA-16), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07), Bill Foster (IL-11), Valerie Foushee (NC-04), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Maxwell Frost (FL-10), Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), John Garamendi (CA-08), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Jesús García (IL-04), Jared Golden (ME-02), Dan Goldman (NY-10), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-34), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Al Green (TX-09), Josh Harder (CA-09), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Chrissie Houlahan (PA-06), Val Hoyle (OR-04), Jonathan Jackson (IL-01), Jeff Jackson (NC-14), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Bill Keating (MA-09), Robin L. Kelly (IL-02), Daniel Kildee (MI-05), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Ann Kuster (NH-02), Greg Landsman (OH-01), Rick Larsen (WA-02), John Larson (CT-01), Suzanne Lee (NV-03), Summer Lee (PA-12), Ted Lieu (CA-36), Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Seth Magaziner (RI-02), Kathy Manning (NC-06), Lucy McBath (GA-07), Morgan McGarvey (KY-03), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Rob Menendez (NJ-08), Kwisi Mfume (MD-07), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Jared Moskowitz (FL-23), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Frank Mrvan (IN-01), Kevin Mullin (CA-15), Grace Napolitano (CA-31), Richard Neal (MA-01), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Wiley Nickel (NC-13), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Christopher Pappas (NH-01), Bill Pascrel (NJ-09), Mary Sattler Peltola (AK), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), Scott Peters (CA-50), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Stacey E. Plaskett (VI), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Katie Porter (CA-47), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Michael Quigley (IL-05), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Raul Ruiz (CA-25), C.A. Ruppersberger (MD-02), Pat Ryan (NY-19), Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (CNMI), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Hillary Scholten (MI-03), Kim Schrier (WA-08), David Scott (GA-13), Robert Scott (VA-03), Terrycina Sewell (AL-07), Brad Sherman (CA-32), Elissa Slotkin (MI-07), Eric Sorensen (IL-17), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Greg Stanton (AZ-04), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Eric Swalwell (CA-14), Emilia Skyes (OH-13), Mark Takano (CA-39), Mike Thompson (CA-04), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Gabe Vasquez (NM-02), Marc A. Veasey (TX-33), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), and Susan Wild (PA-07).

Text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Administrator Regan:

We write to strongly express our support for strengthening the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft proposal on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5), also known as soot. We were pleased that EPA reconsidered the inadequate 2020 standards, and we urge you to finalize standards no higher than 8 μg/m3 for the annual standard and 25 μg/m3 for the 24-hour standard, which are in line with the recommendations of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).

Exposure to fine particle pollution causes a range of health issues, such as increased infant mortality, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, asthma attacks, diabetes, and premature death. The public health benefits that could be realized under an annual standard of 8 μg/m3 were estimated to total $44,000-93,000 million annually. Adopting the most stringent annual standard proposed by EPA - 9 μg/m3 - saves 4,200 lives, but adopting the standard recommended by CASAC - 8 μg/m3 - saves more than twice that number in the year 2032. These health impacts disproportionately affect communities of color, fenceline communities, and lower-income communities who are already overburdened by pollution. People of color also face worse outcomes from exposure to air pollution and stand the benefit the most from stronger standards. EPA’s own analysis shows that every other race compared to Whites would see greater mortality reductions with tighter standards. For Black Americans, mortality reductions are over double for a standard of 8 μg/m3 compared to 9.

According to the American Lung Association, over 63 million Americans experience unhealthy particle pollution spikes and 20 million live with dangerous levels of particle pollution year-round. Further, recent research shows air pollution and its harmful impact on human health and the environment are increasing. The American Lung Association’s 2022 “State of the Air Report” found 9 million more people were impacted by particulate matter from 2018-2020 than in the previous report.

It is critical that EPA strengthen both the annual and 24-hour standards. Both standards are necessary for adequately protecting public health. The 24-hour standard is the basis for the Air Quality Index, which millions of Americans rely on to know the quality of the air they breathe each day. An inadequate 24-hour standard, like the current 35 μg/m3, can mask short-term pollution spikes that are dangerous to millions of people such as children, the elderly, and people with cardiovascular and respiratory problems and pregnant people. Strengthening only the annual standard is not enough to protect communities from dangerous short-term pollution spikes.

Strengthening particle pollution standards will improve air quality from coast to coast and will start to address historic inequities and injustices in communities suffering from cumulative exposure to multiple pollutants. People and their families have waited far too long to breathe healthy air. The science is clear and we urge you to move swiftly to finalize these standards so that we can finally begin to achieve the promise of clean air for everyone.