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Tell the EPA to clean up our air

Delivery to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

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What’s At Stake

If the air you’re breathing today is healthy, the Clean Air Act likely played a part in that. You can help continue that legacy by telling the EPA to strengthen our clean air protections.

Originally enacted in 1963 and significantly strengthened over the next five decades, the Clean Air Act is among the most significant accomplishments of the environmental movement. Since its enactment, air pollution in the United States has declined dramatically — helping people from coast to coast live healthier, longer lives.

One of the key mechanisms of the Clean Air Act is the National Ambient Air Quality Standards or NAAQS. These standards control the maximum allowable concentration of certain dangerous pollutants in the air outside. The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that every level of government is working to make sure there isn’t a harmful amount of these pollutants in the air we breathe. And when there’s new science that shows that air pollution is more dangerous than previously thought, the EPA must revisit and strengthen the NAAQS to reflect that.

The EPA is poised to do this for two pollutants, ozone and particulate matter, in the coming year. Join us in calling on the EPA to accelerate this work and implement the strongest possible clean air protections.

The EPA will first consider issuing new standards for particulate matter. Particulate matter is a menace to our health. It consists of particles suspended in the air, usually less than 10 micrometers (that’s 0.001 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 bloodstream and can cause respiratory disease, heart disease, and even premature death. A powerful body of science shows that the current NAAQS allow levels of particulate matter that cause these harms.

The EPA will then consider issuing new standards for ozone. Yes, ozone is a pollutant — but it’s a little different than the ozone you’ve probably heard of before. Ozone in the stratosphere, the layer of atmosphere right above the air we breathe, is incredibly important and keeps us safe from the sun’s harmful radiation. But when ozone forms near the ground, it exacerbates the climate crisis and creates smog that’s deeply harmful to human health. Well-established scientific studies show that ozone levels that meet the current NAAQS damage the environment and cause breathing problems.

Ozone and particulate matter are a threat to everyone’s health — more than 123 million people breathe dangerous levels of ozone — but communities of color experience disproportionate exposure. People of color are over three times more likely to breathe air with dangerous levels of ozone and particulate matter. This is not a coincidence, it is the result of decades of local, state, and federal policy that has deliberately concentrated fossil fuel extraction and combustion corridors, like highways, in communities of color to keep pollution out of White communities.

The EPA has a real opportunity to advance environmental justice by strengthening the NAAQS for ozone and particulate matter — we just need to convince the EPA to act with the urgency that the air quality crisis requires. Join us in calling on the EPA to work as quickly as possible to develop and implement ozone and particulate matter standards that will ensure everyone has healthy air to breathe.

Originally enacted in 1963 and significantly strengthened over the next five decades, the Clean Air Act is among the most significant accomplishments of the environmental movement. Since its enactment, air pollution in the United States has declined dramatically — helping people from coast to coast live healthier, longer lives.

One of the key mechanisms of the Clean Air Act is the National Ambient Air Quality Standards or NAAQS. These standards control the maximum allowable concentration of certain dangerous pollutants in the air outside. The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that every level of government is working to make sure there isn’t a harmful amount of these pollutants in the air we breathe. And when there’s new science that shows that air pollution is more dangerous than previously thought, EPA must revisit and strengthen the NAAQS to reflect that.

The EPA is poised to do this for two pollutants, ozone and particulate matter, in the coming year. Join us in calling on the EPA to accelerate this work and implement the strongest possible clean air protections.

EPA will first consider issuing new standards for particulate matter. Particulate matter is a menace to our health. It consists of particles suspended in the air, usually less than 10 micrometers (that’s 0.001 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 bloodstream, and cause serious health harms, including respiratory disease, heart disease, and death. A powerful body of science shows that the current NAAQS allow levels of particulate matter that cause these harms.

EPA will then consider issuing new standards for ozone. Yes, ozone is a pollutant — but it’s a little different than the ozone you’ve probably heard of before. Ozone in the stratosphere, the layer of atmosphere right above the air we breathe, is incredibly important and keeps us safe from the sun’s harmful radiation. But when ozone forms near the ground, it exacerbates the climate crisis and creates smog that’s deeply harmful to human health. Well-established scientific studies show that ozone levels that meet the current NAAQS damage the environment and cause people to have breathing problems.

Ozone and particulate matter are a threat to everyone’s health — more than 123 million people breathe dangerous levels of ozone — but communities of color experience disproportionate exposure. People of color are over three times more likely to breathe air with dangerous levels of ozone and particulate matter. This is not a coincidence, it is the result of decades of local, state, and federal policy that has deliberately concentrated fossil fuel extraction and combustion corridors, like highways, in communities of color to keep it out of White communities.

The EPA has a real opportunity to advance environmental justice by strengthening the NAAQS for ozone and particulate matter — we just need to convince the EPA to act with the urgency that the air quality crisis requires. Join us in calling on the EPA to work as quickly as possible to develop and implement ozone and particulate matter standards that will ensure everyone has healthy air to breathe.

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

Smog covers the city of Los Angeles, CA.

Your Actions Matter

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

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You level the playing field.

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

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. 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.

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.

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 more 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.