One Step Closer to Breathing Easier: We Reach a Key Deadline for Reducing Soot

Many of us have just returned from our last summer road trips over the Labor Day weekend, and now we’re settling back into work. So here’s some good news for the unofficial start of fall:

We can all breathe a little easier knowing that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one step closer to finalizing new limits on soot.

The comment period on EPA’s proposal to strengthen the national limits on soot closed last Friday.

Soot — also known as particulate matter — is a deadly pollutant that contributes to asthma attacks, heart attacks, and a host of other respiratory problems.

The more we have learned about soot, the more we have become aware that our national standards are not strong enough to protect our health. That’s why EPA has proposed updated standards – and the deadline for comments means we’re moving toward the moment when final, tougher standards go into effect.

So if, like roughly 30 million other Americans, you drove somewhere last weekend, you can take some comfort in knowing that the big rig in front of you emitting black plumes of smoke may eventually be a thing of the past.

Soot is emitted largely by power plants and diesel vehicles and equipment (including some of those older big rigs). But many highly cost-effective, American-made technologies exist for power plants and diesel engines that will help states meet new, better soot standards.

We’ve already made some progress. The brand-new diesel trucks that are rolling off the assembly lines today are meeting rigorous modern emission standards for soot, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants. They’ll help states meet more protective air quality protections as the newly manufactured diesel trucks replace those on the road today.

Plus, last year the Administration enacted new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles like semis, buses and garbage trucks. Those new fuel efficiency standards will save truck owners money — which is why they have garnered broad industry support.

But we still have more to do, and the proposed new soot standards will help us finish the job.

A broad coalition of health, environmental, moms, and environmental justice groups support the proposed new standards. They wrote a letter urging EPA to strengthen standards for soot, based on the latest science:

Strengthening the particulate matter health standards as demanded by science could prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks, and visits to the hospital and emergency room each year.

Hundreds of physicians and health professionals also sent a letter in support of stronger standards to EPA on Friday.

These proposed new soot standards are more important than ever in light of a recent decision by a U.S. Court of Appeals panel to send the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule back to EPA.

The Cross-State Rule would have helped lower soot and ozone pollution from power plants significantly compared to the policy currently in place. New, strong soot standards are vital to providing lasting clean air protections.

New, strong soot standards will also get states moving to reduce this deadly pollutant. That means we all have a stake in strong new soot standards — so that all Americans can breathe easier.

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