U.S. EPA Maintains Current Soot Standards

Published May 5, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will retain, without changes, standards for particulate matter pollution, more commonly known as soot.

The agency says it made the decision after careful review of the best available evidence.

The 1970 Clean Air Act requires EPA to review air quality standards for particulate matter, as well as other pollutants, to ensure public health and welfare. EPA concluded the best available scientific evidence indicates the current standard for particulate matter is more than adequate to protect human health.

“The U.S. has made incredible strides in reducing particulate matter concentrations across the nation,” said EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement released by the agency when the decision was announced on April 14. “Based on review of the scientific literature and recommendation from our independent science advisors, we are proposing to retain existing [particulate matter] standards which will ensure the continued protection of both public health and the environment.”

“We believe that the current standard is protective of public health… and does not need to be changed,” Wheeler later told reporters in a conference call.

Public Officials Applaud Decision

EPA’s decision is scientifically justified and will promote economic recovery and growth, said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) in a press release.

“I am pleased to see the Trump administration and the EPA employ a science and data driven approach to address the NAAQS [National Ambient Air Quality Standards] for particulate matter,” Flores said. “The EPA’s decision to retain current standards, without changes, rightly reflects the long-term trend data of dramatically decreased particulate matter as well as the needs of our state and local governments.

“Now, more than ever, our communities, small businesses, and industries need thoughtful, scientific-based certainty to dig our economy out of current coronavirus-related economic harm while continuing the trend of greatly improved air quality for hardworking American families,” Flores said.

Emissions are declining under the current standard, and EPA is right to let that progress play out, said Kenneth Wagner, secretary of energy and environment for the state of Oklahoma, in a statement.

“The regulatory decision to keep particulate matter standards steady under the NAAQS is strongly supported by the State of Oklahoma,” said Wagner. “The certainty of holding these standards steady allows businesses in Oklahoma to plan, comply, and hopefully, grow after this incredibly difficult economic period.”

‘Considerable Progress’ in Air Quality

Working with industry, the United States has made great strides in improving the nation’s air quality, said Marty Durbin, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, in a press statement.

“[W]e commend EPA for its efforts to advance a timely review of National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter as required by the Clean Air Act, and for its decision to retain the current standards in accordance with the recommendations of its clean air scientific advisory committee,” Durbin’s statement said. “The United States has made considerable progress improving air quality, with particulate matter emissions down 39 percent since 2000, during a period of population and economic growth.

“These successes are the direct result of collaborative efforts among industry, states, and the federal government to develop and incorporate cleaner technologies, and we look forward to further progress in the years ahead,” Durbin said.

EPA’s decision is in keeping with the Trump administration’s policy of reining in unnecessary, economically counterproductive regulations, Stephanie Kromer, director of energy and environmental policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

“The Ohio Chamber has supported efforts by the U.S. Congress to rein in executive authority over air rules and provide the regulated community with predictability and fairness,” Kromer said. “Ohio’s air continues to improve, and the Ohio Chamber has long urged U.S. EPA to recognize this when addressing air quality [and] commends the U.S. EPA’s efforts to maintain current PM standards.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.

Official Connections:

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX): https://flores.house.gov/; https://flores.house.gov/contact/