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Reps. Barragán, Blunt Rochester, Sen. Markey Lead Call for Stronger Air Quality Standards to Curb Deadly Soot Pollution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                     

28 March 2023

Contact: Kevin McGuire, 202-538-2386 (mobile)

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Today, Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (CA-44) along with Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, led their colleagues in writing to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan. The letter urges the EPA to strengthen the proposed air quality standards to reduce fine particulate matter pollution, also known as soot pollution, and protect communities from its related health issues, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease, infant mortality, and premature death. Toxic air pollution disproportionately impacts people of color, frontline environmental justice communities, and lower-income neighborhoods that are already bearing the brunt of environmental injustice. In January, EPA announced its proposal to update existing air quality standards and is currently accepting public comment.

Specifically, the letter underscored the need for EPA to finalize an annual, health-based air quality standard of eight micrograms per cubic meter and a 24-hour, science-based standard of 25 micrograms per cubic meter, as opposed to EPA’s current proposal of nine and 35 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively. According to EPA’s own independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, adopting the recommended annual standard of eight micrograms per cubic meter would save more than twice as many lives in the year 2032 as EPA’s proposed standard.

“Communities of color in my district are disproportionally impacted by soot and smog pollution from ports and refineries,” said Representative Barragán. “This pollution causes serious health issues like asthma attacks and cancer.  We must work to help these communities breathe cleaner air, and a stronger particulate matter standard from EPA can save lives and improve public health outcomes in communities burdened by pollution.”

“Soot and smog pollution are some of the most dangerous pollutants that frontline and fenceline communities across our country face,” said Representative Blunt Rochester. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in a bicameral effort to urge EPA to act on the data we have and save lives within those communities.” 

“The federal government has an obligation to remediate environmental injustices that for too long have been shouldered most by Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities across our country,” said Senator Markey. “No one should have to breathe unhealthy, toxic pollution on their doorstep or in their backyard. EPA has an opportunity this year to strengthen our nation’s air quality standards, save countless lives, and put health and environmental justice front-and-center in our fight against toxic pollution.”

In their letter to EPA Administrator Reagan, the lawmakers wrote, “Strengthening particle pollution standards will improve air quality from coast to coast and will start to address historic inequities and injustices in communities suffering from cumulative exposure to multiple pollutants.”

The letter continued, “People and their families have waited far too long to breathe healthy air. The science is clear and we urge you to move swiftly to finalize these standards so that we can finally begin to achieve the promise of clean air for everyone.”

The Inflation Reduction Act included $3 million for air quality sensors in low-income and disadvantaged communities, as called for in the Environmental Justice Air Quality Monitoring Act, as well as $117.5 million for air pollution monitoring, $50 million for multipollutant monitoring, $60 million for diesel emissions reductions, $40 million for air pollution permitting resources, $25 million for Clean Air Act (CAA) grants, and $15 million to reduce emissions from wood heaters.

The full text of the letter can be found here.


Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Bellflower, Carson, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Lakewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Paramount, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, West Carson, and Wilmington. She serves as Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Health, Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Minerals Subcommittees.