Biden EPA to Reexamine Trump Air Quality Standards for Soot

The Biden EPA said it will strengthen the air quality standards for soot, which can cause heart attacks, asthma attacks, premature death and harm to the environment. The Trump EPA chose to leave the 2012 standards in place. 

In this July 27, 2018, file photo, the Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyo. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Biden administration announced Thursday that it will roll back yet another of Trump’s environmental policies, this time a “do-nothing” approach to air quality standards. 

In December 2020, the Trump administration chose to leave the 2012 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in place, despite scientific evidence which said the standards allowed deadly levels of pollution.

“The most vulnerable among us are most at risk from exposure to particulate matter, and that’s why it’s so important we take a hard look at these standards that haven’t been updated in nine years,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. 

Particulate matter, or soot, is produced by the mining, drilling and burning of coal, oil and methane gas, and is one of the most harmful air pollutants — especially for communities of color and other vulnerable populations. Soot causes more than 100,000 premature deaths each year, and harms plants and animals by creating acid rain and excess nitrogen in soil.  

The EPA says they will “move expeditiously” to review the latest science and public health data to strengthen the standards, which set limits on the concentrations of soot from industrial plants, coal fired plants and vehicle tail pipes. 

“This is a chance to undo one of the previous administration’s most ill-considered and indefensible decisions, and create new standards based on the best available science that will protect public health,” Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “The previous administration willfully pushed science out of the process of setting particulate-matter standards.”

Earthjustice praised the move, and urged the administration to also consider reviewing and strengthening smog NAAQS.

“Overburdened communities all over the country have the right to breathe clean air. Stronger soot and smog NAAQS are a long-overdue step toward accomplishing that goal,” said Seth Johnson, an EarthJustice attorney who joined several other environmental groups in suing the EPA in January when the standards were left in place. 

The move to review smog NAAQS seems imminent as the administration is systematically reviewing all of Trump’s environmental policies — which Biden ordered during his first week in office. 

The EPA announced Wednesday it would reverse a Trump-era water rule which cut back on the number of waterways and wetlands under federal protection. 

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