EPA Must Act Quickly to Further Strengthen Particulate Matter Rule

Statements by Anita Desikan, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Beto Lugo Martinez, Clean Air Now

Published Jan 6, 2023

WASHINGTON (January 6, 2023)—Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a long-awaited proposed rule to reduce fine particulate matter (PM) emissions under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program. This proposal would strengthen the weak standard set by the previous administration, but the science supports an even more stringent standard to better protect public health, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Anita Desikan, senior analyst for the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“For years, communities across the country have called on the federal government to tackle the dangers of particulate matter pollution, one of the most common and harmful pollutants affecting our air. The science is clear—PM pollution causes serious health problems, and the biggest impacts are hitting Black, Latinx, and low-income people, many of whom are already overburdened with exposure to multiple pollutants. Over the past decade, study after study has shown how breathing PM pollution causes real, meaningful damage. Today’s proposal gets us closer to where we need to be—but the problem is urgent and the solution is long overdue. EPA needs to act quickly, follow the science, and finalize the strongest possible rule.”

Below is a statement by Beto Lugo Martinez, executive director of Clean Air Now.

“Everyone deserves to breathe clean air. However, Brown and Black communities at the fenceline of environmental hazards are overburdened with multiple air pollutants from various sources. EPA’s action to strengthen its particulate matter standard is a good step, but without strategic placing of regulatory monitors that can actually measure excessive pollution levels and the will to make polluters pay for violating the standard, this new ‘recommendation’ will not make a difference in communities. Without enforcement of the Clean Air Act, this administration’s so-called environmental justice priorities will be hollow words.

“Even with this improved particulate matter standard, and even if it is fully enforced, there is still work EPA needs to do to measure and address the cumulative impact of the hazards we are being exposed to daily. Despite excuses and delays from EPA, environmental justice communities like ours are equipped to inform where EPA places its monitors—members of our community in Kansas City have even offered their residences as places to locate regulatory monitors. It’s time for the EPA to seek out solutions instead of excuses and to do its job to keep us all safe.”

In 2019, UCS coordinated an Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel of science advisors dismissed by the Trump administration. The panel found that particulate matter standards were too weak to protect public health—and this year, the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee concurred with that finding.