EPA Will Re-Open Particulate Matter Standards to Fully Consider Science, Health

WASHINGTON (June 10, 2021)—The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it will re-open the National Ambient Air Quality Standards process for particulate matter (PM) pollution. That’s a welcome shift that will enable the agency to undo the previous administration’s mishandling of particulate matter rules, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Gretchen T. Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“EPA Administrator Michael Regan is taking a very positive step by re-opening the process of setting standards for particulate matter pollution. 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.

“Fine particulate matter is one of the most common, and most harmful ambient air pollutants. In recent years, the science increasingly shows the clear health risks of PM 2.5—and its disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities. The EPA should be following the science showing the need for stronger PM standards to protect public health, especially for sensitive populations and environmental justice communities who bear a disproportionate burden of particulate pollution.

“The previous administration willfully pushed science out of the process of setting particulate-matter standards. At every turn, former administrator Andrew Wheeler and other political appointees dismissed the expertise of career EPA scientists and independent scientists alike who agreed that these standards need to be strengthened. These political appointees manipulated the regulatory process by excluding studies, cutting corners on process, and excluding experts who have informed ambient air pollution standards for decades. It was a rigged process designed to reach a political conclusion.

“Now, we have a chance to get it right. The EPA must take the best available science into account. At the same time, the EPA must consider the urgency of this public health threat and ensure science-based standards are in place as soon as possible.”

In 2019, UCS hosted the Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel composed of scientists and experts dismissed by the Trump administration. The panel found that current particulate matter standards are not sufficiently protective of human health and must be strengthened. UCS is currently part of a lawsuit asking the Biden EPA to reconsider the PM standards.

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