Dec 08, 2020
EPA Final Decision: NAAQS with No PM Changes
At a virtual press conference Dec. 7 with Governor Jim Justice, U.S. Congressman Alex Mooney (WV-02), West Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Austin Caperton, and Senior Deputy Attorney General Douglas Buffington, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the agency’s final decision to retain the existing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM) without changes.
“The EPA under the Trump Administration has continued America’s leadership in clear air, lowering our particulate matter levels to well below those of many of our global competitors,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Maintaining these important standards will ensure Americans can continue to breathe some of the cleanest air on the planet.”
“Today’s announcement by the EPA of the finalization of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards rule is a big win for West Virginia. As crafted, this rule well balances the need for a cleaner environment with the need for continued economic development. Under the leadership of President Trump, America has cleaner air and is energy independent, with West Virginia serving as the backbone for our nation’s energy production,” said Congressman Alex X. Mooney (WV-02).
The U.S. has some of the lowest fine particulate matter levels in the world—approximately five times below the global average, six times below Chinese levels, and 20 percent lower than France, Germany, and Great Britain. Between 2000 and 2019, average PM2.5 concentrations in the United States fell by 44 percent and average PM10 concentrations similarly fell by 46 percent.
The decision to retain existing standards, which applies to the NAAQS for both fine and coarse particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), comes after careful review and consideration of the most recent available scientific evidence and technical information, consultation with the agency’s independent scientific advisors, and consideration of more than 60,000 public comments on the proposal.
Under President Trump, EPA has re-designated 57 nonattainment areas to attainment with standards for six key criteria air pollutants: carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, lead, nitrogen oxides, PM, and sulfur oxides. This includes 9 areas for PM2.5 and 12 areas for PM10. These re-designations mean cleaner air, improved health outcomes, and greater economic opportunities for cities and communities across the country.
In May 2018, EPA issued a “Back-to-Basics” memo to improve EPA’s process for reviewing the NAAQS. The memo laid out goals to get EPA back on track with Clean Air requirements, statutory deadlines, and the issuance of timely implementation rules, to ensure continued improvements in air quality across the country.
Monday’s action follows the principles established in the earliest days of this administration to streamline the NAAQS review process. By implementing these principles, EPA was able to issue the final PM standards earlier than initially anticipated.
The agency expects to meet the five-year review deadline going forward.
For more information about the decision to retain the standards, visit https://www.epa.gov/naaqs/particulate-matter-pm-air-quality-standards.