November 3, 2022
President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden:
The undersigned organizations appreciate that your administration has restored rigorous, science-based decision-making to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies as they develop solutions for pollution that will protect public health. Turning the page on the disastrous and deadly anti-science agenda of the previous administration is literally a matter of life and death for people across the nation. While we were encouraged to see the introduction of many important safeguards in your Spring 2022 plan we write to share our deep concern that many of the actions continue to be delayed. Time is of the utmost essence, but for a number of these actions, the timeline is already slipping into 2023. We believe the science is clear and that there is quite literally no time for delay in setting strong limits on air pollution, specifically for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) or soot.
Soot pollution exposure causes increased infant mortality, cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, cognitive impairments, and even premature death. As is often the case, these health burdens are disproportionately borne by communities already overburdened by pollution, particularly lower-income households and communities of color who are more likely to live near heavily polluting facilities and high-traffic roadways. Simply put, soot is deadly. And each day that passes without updated limits is another day that millions of Americans are exposed to unhealthy and potentially deadly levels of soot pollution. Additionally, the delay in pushing forward a strong soot pollution standard is also holding back the co-benefits we would see for nature and our ecosystems as well as in reductions in other air and climate pollution.
We are united in our call for the EPA to set the strongest possible protections to limit soot pollution without delay. Specifically, we call on your administration to quickly set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter pollution of no higher than 8 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) for the annual standard and no higher than 25 μg/m3 for the 24-hour standard. Doing so could avoid nearly 20,000 premature deaths annually. It will also begin to mitigate long-standing environmental and health injustices faced by fenceline communities and will benefit people and the environment across the country.
In August, we applauded the advancement of the soot pollution standards to interagency review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). However, we are deeply concerned to see that polluters secured additional meetings–sometimes more than once–further delaying the process at the expense of improved health and environmental justice outcomes for communities that have borne the brunt of this pollution. OMB has already exceeded the mandated 90-day deadline on several appliance efficiency standards and for pollutants like hydrofluorocarbons, giving us cause for concern. Knowing that the mercury and air toxics standards and methane safeguards are also languishing adds to the frustration. We hoped this soot standard would come open for public comment by the end of summer, consistent with EPA’s public statements, but it is now approaching November without a proposal in sight.
Mr. President, Americans are depending on your administration to protect their right to clean air and healthy communities. People need and deserve to know if their air is safe to breathe. Without science-based, updated air quality standards, too many remain in the dark regarding their local conditions. That is why we need solutions for pollution–and we need them now. We urge you to move quickly to advance and finalize stronger soot pollution standards and to swiftly move all rules forward that protect public health, stave off the worst of the climate crisis, and improve the quality of our lives. Every additional day of delay means hazy skies and more toxic soot pollution in the lungs of our vulnerable children and seniors. We urge you to act as swiftly and boldly as possible. The eyes of our community, the nation, and the world are upon you.
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light
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