EPA Takes Long-Awaited Step to Strengthen Soot Standard, Protecting Public Health


Amy Dominguez, Amy.Dominguez@sierraclub.org

Phoenix, AZ – Today, the EPA released updated National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (PM2.5) to curb the deadly air pollutant that significantly harms public health, causing premature death and decreased lung function, and that is responsible for over 100,000 deaths in the United States every year. 

EPA’s final air quality standards for PM2.5, also known as soot, lower the annual standards from 12 mcg/m3 to 9 mcg/m3, and will prevent up to 4,200 premature deaths and 270,000 lost workdays per year while bringing as much as $43 billion in net health benefits in 2032, when the standards are in full effect. 

The final standards fail to strengthen the 24-hour standard, which is critical for protecting against dangerous short-term spikes in air pollution and provides the basis for the air quality index that millions use to determine the quality of the air they breathe on any given day.

While most of the soot in Arizona is associated with cars and trucks, coal plant pollution contributes to ambient soot levels, and some of the most dangerous and deadly plants like the Springerville and Coronado coal plants emit millions of tons of toxic CO2 pollution that harm the health of Arizonans and worsen the climate crisis. 

Communities of color also experience a disproportionate air burden from fossil fuel facilities, as has underscored the advocacy taking place in Randolph, a historic Black community that has been outspoken in their opposition to the proposed expansion of the gas-fired Coolidge Generating Station that would extend into the neighborhood. 

EPA will now determine areas of the country that do not meet the new standard, and will release determinations within two years. States that do not meet the new standards will then have 18 months to develop and submit plans to comply. 

“Communities of color are exposed to higher concentrations of soot pollution and at Chispa AZ, we have been calling on the EPA to do more for our communities since we are at the forefront of the climate crisis,” said Chispa Arizona Organizing Director DJ Portugal. “With Latinx children being 40% more likely to die from asthma and other respiratory illnesses, we are glad the EPA finally took this important action that will be of great benefit to the health of our communities.”

“Soot pollution causes harmful impacts to our health, whether generated by diesel engines or burning coal or gas, and is especially harmful to those most vulnerable – young children, the elderly, and those with other underlying health issues,” said Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter Director, Sandy Bahr. “EPA’s updated National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter are a long-overdue step that will protect communities, including mine, by curbing the most dangerous and deadly effects of toxic soot pollution like cancer, asthma, and heart disease.”



About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.