Tell the EPA to clean up our air


Supporters spoke up in this action

Delivery to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

Action ended on July 12, 2022

What Happens Next

Thank you for submitting comments to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA will now review your comments as it moves forwards with its process to update the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter.

What Was At Stake

For more than 50 years, the Clean Air Act has worked to significantly cut dangerous air pollution. But this progress has not occurred in a vacuum and has only been possible when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) follows the law and assesses the latest science to set limits on emissions and standards for air quality that state, regional, and local governments must adhere to. Tell the EPA to strengthen our air quality protections.

The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program, which sets limits on six common outdoor air pollutants, is an incredibly important pillar of the Clean Air Act. Because everyone has the right to breathe clean air, all areas of the country must meet these standards.

However, the EPA recently released updated standards for particulate matter that fall well short of what’s necessary to meaningfully cut this type of pollution. It ignored the available science in order to appease polluters that would’ve had to clean up their act otherwise. Tell the EPA to course-correct and strengthen the proposed standards.

The consequences of weak standards are reflected in the Air Quality Index (AQI), which millions of people depend on to get accurate information on their local air quality. If the NAAQS aren’t based on science and set at health protective levels, people can be unknowingly exposed to dirty air that causes heart and lung damage. Every community has a right to know if their air is safe to breathe — so it’s critical that we have science-based standards that give communities accurate information and compel governments to act.

As we’re seeing right now, stronger standards are not inevitable — it takes grassroots pressure and persistent litigation to get it right. When, despite overwhelming evidence indicating the need for stronger protections, Trump’s EPA administrators corrupted the scientific review process to issue a do-nothing rule that didn’t strengthen the standard for fine particulate matter (also known as soot), Earthjustice and partners sued to ensure that the EPA didn’t squander the opportunity. Now, Biden’s EPA has proposed a small step forward, but it would still leave so much and so many behind. We’re continuing to push as hard as we can to get the EPA to finally do the right thing.

Particulate matter is a menace to our health. It consists of particles suspended in the air, with the most dangerous less than 2.5 micrometers (that’s 0.0025 centimeters, or 30 times smaller than the diameter of a single strand of hair) in diameter. These tiny particles lodge themselves deep in our lungs and can move into our bloodstream, where they can cause asthma, cancer, heart attacks, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death. A powerful body of science shows that the current NAAQS allow levels of particulate matter that cause these harms.

Particulate matter is a threat to everyone’s health, but lower income households and communities of color experience disproportionate exposure. Black people in particular are far more likely to suffer and die prematurely from exposure to soot pollution. This is not a coincidence, rather the result of decades of discriminatory policies at the local, state, and federal levels that have deliberately concentrated polluting facilities and highways in lower income areas and communities of color.

This administration is about to squander a real opportunity to advance environmental justice — but we can still convince the EPA to act with urgency and strengthen the NAAQS for particulate matter. The science, the moment, and our collective health demands it. Join us in calling on the agency to implement the strongest possible particulate matter standards to ensure everyone has safe, healthy air to breathe.

Smog covers the city of Los Angeles, CA.
Smog covers the city of Los Angeles, CA. (Metropolitan Transportation Library Archive)

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention. Read more.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue.

Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court. Read more.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment. Read more.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.