WASHINGTON – The Biden government will reconsider federal limits on fine industrial soot, one of the most common and deadly forms of air pollution, with a view to imposing strict new rules on emissions from power plants, factories and other industrial facilities.
The announcement, made Thursday by Michael S. Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, comes after the Trump administration last year refused to tighten pollution limits, despite warnings from federal scientists and others that it could kill more than 10,000 people. per year can save. especially in urban areas.
Recent scientific studies have also linked fine soot contamination to higher mortality rates due to Covid-19. Black and colored communities tend to be particularly exposed to soot and other air pollutants because they are regularly located close to highways, power stations and other industrial facilities.
And the Biden government has suggested that the move is part of its strategy to address environmental justice.
“The most vulnerable among us run the greatest risk through exposure to particulate matter, which is why it is so important that we carefully examine these standards, which have not been updated in nine years,” Regan said in a statement. He said it was important that the new review “reflects the latest scientific and public health data.”
By law, the EPA is required to review the latest science and update the soot standard every five years. However, legal experts have said that Biden’s government can do nothing to revise the standard sooner rather than later.
Mr. Regan said his office would formally review a Trump rule, finalized in December 2020, that did not want to get stuck on the small, lung-damaging particles known as PM 2.5.
The EPA said it was expected to propose a new draft rule by the summer of 2022 and release a final rule by the spring of 2023.
Public health advocates applauded the move. “EPA’s decision to reconsider the inadequate national limits on particles is good news for the country’s lung health,” said Harold Wimmer, chief executive of the American Lung Association. “The need is urgent for stronger standards that reflect what science shows are needed to protect public health.”
Polluting industries are expected to strongly oppose the introduction of a strict new soot pollution rule.
The current Trump administration maintains a standard set in 2012 during the Obama administration. The rule limited the contamination of industrial fine soot particles – each about 1 / 30th the width of a human hair, but associated with heart attacks, strokes and premature deaths – to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. But by law, the federal government must review the standards-related science every five years.
When EPA scientists conducted the mandatory review during the Trump administration, many concluded that if the federal government tightened the standard to about nine micrograms per cubic meter, more than 12,000 U.S. lives a year could be saved.
In a draft scientific assessment of 457 pages of the risks associated with maintaining or strengthening the fine soot pollution rule, occupational scientists at the EPA estimated that the current standard is “associated with 45,000 deaths annually”. The scientists wrote that if the rule was tightened to nine micrograms per cubic meter, the annual deaths would drop by about 27 percent, or 12,150 people per year.
Following the publication of the report, numerous industries, including oil and coal companies, automakers and chemical manufacturers, urged the Trump administration to disregard the findings and not tighten the rule.
Douglas Buffington, the deputy attorney general of West Virginia, a strong coal-dependent state, said at the time that the Trump administration had been released that tightening the standard “could be a major blow to the coal industry.” ‘
Last April, researchers at Harvard the first nationwide study released which links long-term exposure to PM 2.5 with higher Covid-19 mortality rates.
Andrew Wheeler, the EPA administrator during the Trump administration, said at the time that he was announcing the rule that his decision not to tighten soot standards had taken into account a variety of scientific evidence.
“This comes after thorough consultation with the agency’s independent scientific advisory board and consideration of more than 60,000 public comments,” he said.
However, he said the Harvard study, which only completed its scientific peer review process in November 2020, was too recent to take into account.
“We looked at it, but it would have been inappropriate to consider it,” he said.
The Biden government’s decision to review the restrictions on air pollution is one of a series of reversals it has made with the Trump era’s environmental decisions. The Trump administration has repealed or weakened more than 100 environmental rules or laws, weakening or eliminating the rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protection.