A.G. Schneiderman Lauds EPA's New National Public Health Standards For Soot Pollution

New Air Standards Announced After Legal Action By A.G. Schneiderman

Schneiderman: The Health Of Over 100 Million Americans Will Benefit From EPA’s New Soot Standards

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s today lauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly revised national air quality standards for harmful fine particulate matter ‑ commonly known as "soot." The revised standards strengthen the annual standard for soot pollution from 15 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) to 12 ug/m3 ‑ a more protective level overwhelmingly supported by scientific evidence and the agency's health assessment. 

"The soot pollution standards adopted by EPA today represent a major victory for the public's right to breathe clean, healthy air," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "For too many years, the health of over one-third of Americans ‑ particularly our children, elderly and sick ‑ has suffered because of lax soot pollution standards. Now, the federal government has met the public health imperative of setting standards for soot pollution that protect all Americans, including the most vulnerable. The health of over 100 million Americans will benefit from this action."   

Today’s  announcement comes after legal actions by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office and partnering states to ensure that the EPA meets adopted standards that adequately protect the public from the adverse health effects of soot pollution, as is required under the federal Clean Air Act. These actions included Attorney General Schneiderman's May 2012 legal victory in which a federal district court found the EPA  failed to timely revise these critical public health standards and ordered the agency to promptly do so.

Soot and other particulate matter pollution ‑ a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion by motor vehicles, power generation, industrial facilities, residential fuel burning and other sources ‑ consists of microscopic particles that trigger a wide range of adverse health effects. EPA has linked exposure to particulate matter pollution with increased respiratory symptoms (asthma attacks) and disease (acute and chronic bronchitis), decreased lung function and premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease.

EPA estimates that more than 100 million Americans ‑ one-third of the nation’s population ‑ have special susceptibility to be harmed from particulate matter, including children, seniors and people with lung disease such as asthma. EPA calculated in 2010 that exposure to particulate matter pollution at the levels allowed under the current standards could result in roughly 10,000 premature deaths per year in 15 urban areas. EPA also found that up to half of these premature deaths could be averted if lower and more protective air standards were adopted. Many areas of the country experience levels of soot pollution above the level that EPA staff and the agency’s independent science advisors found are likely to harm public health.

The national air quality standards for soot published by EPA today marks the culmination of a six-year effort by the New York Attorney General's Office to secure soot pollution standards that protect public. The federal Clean Air Act requires EPA every five years to review and, as warranted by advances in public health science, revise the national air quality standards for common air pollutants, including particulate matter. EPA’s adoption of final revised standards sets in motion a time table for states to put in place the air pollution reduction measures necessary to attain the new standards.

A coalition of states led by Attorney General Schneiderman sued EPA in February 2012 to compel the agency to revise these critical public health standards. In May, a federal court ruled that EPA must promptly issue proposed soot pollution standards, and in addition, the Attorney General, leading an 11-state coalition, reached a settlement with EPA that required the Agency to adopt revised air standards for particulate matter by today.

This matter was handled for Attorney General Schneiderman by Assistant Attorneys General Jane C. Cameron and Michael J. Myers of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau. The case was supervised by EPB Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek, Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.