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Climate, Health & Justice Advocates Urge Biden EPA to Set Strong Soot Protections

Washington, D.C. - Today, leading public health, faith, environmental justice, and environmental advocates gathered outside of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters to push for the strongest possible soot pollution standards. The event coincided with the final day of the EPA’s public comment period on its updated soot pollution standard, which advocates warn does not go far enough.

Photo of public health, environmental justice, and environmental advocates gathered outside EPA HQ in Washington, DC demanding strong soot protections.
Advocates rallied outside the EPA to mark the final day of the public comment period on the agency’s soot pollution proposal

At the event – which was organized by the Climate Action Campaign (CAC) and its Solutions for Pollution coalition, along with Moms Clean Air Force – Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz and advocates representing Green The Church, Moms Clean Air Force, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, and PennEnvironment provided remarks calling on the EPA to adequately address dangerous soot pollution. During the event, advocates delivered nearly 600,000 public comments from folks around the country to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


“Soot pollution is a deadly air and toxic pollutant that causes thousands of deaths every year. The Biden administration’s proposed soot pollution standard does not fully recognize the deadliness of soot, nor does it fully meet the guidance offered by EPA’s own scientific advisory panel,” said Ramon Cruz, President of the Sierra Club. “We’re holding the EPA accountable and asking the Biden administration to follow through on its promise to advance environmental justice by swiftly setting the strongest possible soot pollution standard.”


Based on the best available science, the EPA’s proposed standard on soot pollution does not go far enough to advance environmental justice and ensure the country’s most vulnerable people have access to clean air. Soot pollution – also known as particulate matter, or PM 2.5 – from power plants and other industrial sources has been linked to increased mortality rates, hospitalizations, and visits to the emergency room. It’s also linked to grave illnesses, including asthma attacks, heart attacks, stroke, heart disease, COPD, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, low birth rate, greater risk of preterm birth, and higher rates of infant mortality.


“There is a human connection between clean air, climate change and health. The disproportionate burden of air pollution is harming our nation’s most vulnerable populations – our Black, Brown and low wealth communities. In the U.S., people of color are six times more likely to visit the emergency room for air pollution-triggered childhood asthma than white people. Moms Clean Air Force urges the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen both the annual and 24 hour standards and to make these changes as soon as possible. All communities deserve clean air, especially Black and Brown and low wealth communities that are already suffering the most harm,” said Almeta Cooper, National Manager for Health Equity, Moms Clean Air Force.


“People of color experience higher than average levels of soot exposure from power plants and industry, light duty vehicles, diesel-powered heavy-duty trucks, and construction. I’m here to tell you all air isn’t equal,” Rev. Bruce C. Carroll, Sr., M.Div., Green The Church, said in his remarks. “EPA we ask today that you rise to your responsibility of protecting our public health over the polluters.”


The standards, last updated in 2012, are insufficient to protect people from this dangerous pollution.


“I have seen firsthand the toll that respiratory illness can take on a person,” Lillian Jensen, MN, RN, CNL, NPD-BC, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, said at the event. “In fact, in Milwaukee's two lowest income zip codes, both of which were redlined in the past, particulate matter or soot is higher, and children are hospitalized at rates of 10 times higher than those of affluent communities nearby.”


“In order to ensure a brighter and a healthier future for the youth and for all Americans, we need strong protective soot standards,” Stephanie Wein, an advocate with PennEnvironment stated in her remarks.


Advocates also delivered a letter signed by over 200 groups urging President Biden and EPA Administrator Michael Regan to enact the strongest possible standards on soot pollution.


Video from the event can be viewed HERE.


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