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July 13, 2022

Earthjustice Celebrates Reintroduction of Public Health Air Quality Act

Legislation would significantly expand nation's air monitoring network, target toxic hotspots

Contacts

Geoffrey Nolan, Earthjustice, (202) 740-7030

Washington, DC

Today, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE At-Large) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) reintroduced the Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022. The bill would make significant investments in our nation’s air quality monitoring infrastructure and give fenceline communities improved access to information on their local air quality and what pollutants are being emitted by industrial sources into their neighborhoods. The legislation responds to calls from frontline communities for continuous emissions monitoring at high-risk facilities and provides for the expansion of ambient monitoring to better protect public health, especially children who are most vulnerable to toxic air pollution when exposed early in life. Critically, it requires corrective action to reduce harmful pollution where the air is found to be unsafe.

“Frontline communities have called for strong, continuous air monitoring on industrial fencelines for decades. We applaud Rep. Blunt Rochester and Senator Duckworth for listening and celebrate reintroduction of this important legislation,” said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Terry McGuire. “Unhealthy air is unjust and avoidable, and information is a critical first step to stronger protections. People have a right to know whether their air is safe to breathe. We have the tools and technology to better safeguard our families. It’s past time for Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act.”

Earlier in the week, Earthjustice and partner organizations sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Public Works in support of the legislation.

Quotes from partner organizations:

“For Environmental Justice communities, information is the first step toward health protection. We have done lots of organizing to inform our communities of the risk of air pollution, but without data, we can only take our advocacy so far. The Public Health Air Quality Act addresses this by funding air quality monitors on the fencelines and requiring corrective action,” said Dana Johnson, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Director of Strategy and Federal Policy.

“The Public Health Air Quality Act would make important and lasting improvements to our country’s air monitoring networks. It would arm people with information on their local air quality and require corrective federal action where the air is found to be unsafe. Fenceline communities have waited too long for action to monitor and clean up the pollution that poisons their neighborhoods and makes their families sick; a reality which has gotten even more stark and urgent in the times of COVID-19. We urge sponsorship and passage of this important and long-overdue legislation,” said Michele Roberts, National Co-Coordinator, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform.

“Knowing what’s in your air shouldn’t be a luxury, but for too long, our most vulnerable communities have been left in the dark as industries pollute their clean air,” said Patrick Drupp, Sierra Club deputy legislative director, Climate and Clean Air. “Implementing more robust air quality monitoring networks in fenceline communities, repairing existing networks, and requiring that air quality information be readily available and accessible are common-sense solutions that can hold polluters accountable and ensure communities finally receive the essential health protections they deserve.”

“The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is proud to endorse the Public Health Air Quality Act and thank Representative Lisa Blunt-Rochester and Senator Duckworth for leading its reintroduction. As shown in our Asthma Disparities in America report, asthma disproportionately impacts Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous Americans. Over 4,100 people die each year from asthma and Black Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma than White Americans. Poor air quality is a significant social determinant of health that contributes to asthma disparities. The proposed air quality monitoring improvements in this bill are a critical step to reducing air pollution. AAFA looks forward to working with Congress to get this bill passed into law to ensure clean, safe air for all communities, but especially for the disproportionately burdened,” said Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

“Our nation must do a better job of monitoring our air quality and using all available methods to reduce air pollution in our most impacted communities,” said Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics. “The Public Health Air Quality Act will make that happen. Congress should move swiftly to pass this piece of legislation and protect our nation’s air quality.”

“People have a right to know what is in their air! Colorado Latino Forum welcomes reintroduction of the Public Health Air Quality Act. Americans are overburdened with the cumulative impacts of pollution from industrial facilities, highways, and power plants. We need strong action and leadership from Congress and the EPA. These investments in our air quality monitoring infrastructure are long-overdue and will arm communities with information about their local air quality and require corrective action when the air is found to be unhealthy. We urge our Colorado delegation to cosponsor and support this commonsense legislation,” said Ean Tafoya, co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum & co-chair of the Colorado Environmental Justice Action Task Force.

“The Public Health Air Quality Act will provide Environmental Justice communities in Louisiana with data on what quantities of air toxic chemicals they are being exposed to and help reduce their exposure to ethylene oxide, chloroprene, and other toxic air pollution chemicals. The Concerned Citizens of St. John and community groups around the 13 ethylene oxide facilities in Louisiana plus other environmental justice communities in Louisiana will benefit extensively from this Act,” said Wilma Subra, technical advisor, Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).

“Moms Clean Air Force applauds the reintroduction of the Public Health Air Quality Act, which would expand air pollution monitoring across the country, particularly in the frontline communities that need it the most. Moreover, it requires that the information gathered be leveraged to protect the health of families and communities. Investing in an equitable and expanded air monitoring system will provide life-saving information so that we can better protect our children from harmful air pollution. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this much-needed legislation,” said Molly Rauch, Moms Clean Air Force, public health policy director.

“Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) endorses the Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022 and thanks Representative Blunt Rochester and Senator Duckworth for their leadership on this critical issue. Too many Houston communities, especially along the Ship Channel, are being poisoned by industrial pollution. We understand firsthand the fear and frustration that can result from not knowing if the air is safe to breathe. Continuous fenceline monitoring at high-risk facilities, paired with requirements for corrective action if the air is found to be unsafe, would be a major improvement for our communities and public health. Congress should pass this legislation and EPA must act to better protect fenceline communities and plant workers,” said Juan Parras, executive director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.)

“Everyone deserves healthy air to breathe no matter where they live or how much money they make. Protecting the right to clean air means having robust and reliable data to ensure just and equitable enforcement of the Clean Air Act and other public health standards. The Public Health Air Quality Act will help protect the health and well-being of frontline communities in Birmingham and throughout Alabama,” said Michael Hansen, executive director of GASP.

“We welcome Sen. Duckworth’s and Rep. Blunt Rochester’s continued leadership in protecting public health and clean air,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Staff Attorney Ann Jaworski. “Strengthening air quality monitoring in overburdened and fenceline communities keeps us all more informed about the air we breathe.”

“A lack of adequate air pollution monitoring is a direct threat to the health of the millions of people who live with unhealthy air. It is crucial that all people and communities across our country have information about the air they breathe. We thank Representative Blunt Rochester and Senator Duckworth for their leadership in introducing the Public Health Air Quality Act and prioritizing the health of our communities,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel, Environmental Defense Fund.

"Latinx and other communities of color suffer disproportionate exposure to air pollution and the resulting ill health impacts. We know that in the U.S. Latinx children are twice as likely as non-Latinx whites to die from asthma attacks, partly because of the disproportionate pollution burden Latinx communities experience. One critical step in addressing this environmental injustice is ensuring we have transparent, accurate data on emissions released from industrial sources. Impacted communities have a right to know what is in the air they are breathing. The Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022 is an important step in facilitating transparent data by requiring the EPA to implement immediate fenceline monitoring for toxic air pollutants at 100 facilities contributing to high local cancer and other health threats from dangerous pollutants. Our comunidades need adequate protection now, which is why GreenLatinos is urging swift passage of this important bill," said Irene Burga, Climate Justice and Clean Air Program Director, GreenLatinos.

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.