WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final revision of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM), which sets the primary annual standard — the allowed concentration of the pollutant in the outdoor air averaged over a year — for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at 9 µg/m3 while leaving the rest of the standards for particulate matter in place. EPA’s decision to revise the PM2.5 annual standard to 9 µg/m3 is a significant step toward providing the protection for public health intended by Congress and required by statute. EPA is required to review the NAAQS periodically under the Clean Air Act.
“Strengthening the PM2.5 annual standard from 12 µg/m3 to 9 µg/m3 will improve public health protection across the country and will make some progress in addressing disparities in health impacts among various populations. This standard is similar to the Canadian standard of 8.8 µg/m 3. However, we continue to believe that the available scientific knowledge — as indicated by the recommendation of a majority of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee — supports a primary PM2.5 annual standard of 8 µg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 µg/m3 to protect public health from both typical and peak concentrations of PM2.5 and provide an adequate margin of safety,” said John Graham, Senior Scientist at Clean Air Task Force.
Fine particulate matter is emitted in various ways, including by combustion sources like cars, trucks, power plants, and other industrial polluters. The Clean Air Act requires the primary NAAQS to be set at a level that protects public health with an adequate margin of safety to protect sensitive populations and account for scientific uncertainty without considering cost. EPA must also set secondary NAAQS that protect public welfare, including by improving visibility. The standards must be set in light of the latest scientific knowledge, and EPA is not allowed to consider projected costs of attaining the standards. EPA’s analysis found that the projected net benefits of eventual implementation of this standard, which will occur in a series of steps in the coming years, would be up to $46 billion per year in 2032. These benefits include avoiding 800,000 cases of asthma symptoms, 2,000 hospital visits, and 4,500 premature deaths.
The recent passage of significant federal legislation has also created opportunities to improve air quality in communities across the country, making compliance with air quality standards even more economically feasible. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act provide significant funding to encourage deployment of technologies that can reduce various types of air pollution. The Inflation Reduction Act has created significant federal funding opportunities that can support efforts to reduce air pollution in communities and help them to attain air quality standards.
“We are pleased that EPA has improved this health-beneficial standard and stand ready to defend it. We also urge the agency to move forward expeditiously to take the next steps to implement this critically important standard,” said Hayden Hashimoto, Attorney at Clean Air Task Force. “Implementing the NAAQS is a key part of achieving the agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and by improving air quality in communities across the country will help to promote environmental justice, a priority for the Biden administration.”
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With more than 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf.