EJ Groups Celebrate EPA Decision to Raise Soot Standard

Environmental Justice Groups Celebrate EPA’s Decision to Raise Soot Standard

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a long-awaited higher standard for soot pollution which, in addition to providing life-saving public health and economic benefits, will address environmental health inequity throughout America’s ports.

An often unexplored dimension of air quality issues, port communities have been disproportionately subjected to air pollution, but are now able to secure essential funding for port electrification and emissions-reduction through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. This announcement from the EPA provides a guiding light for port officials to improve the health of their already-overburdened communities.

Learn more about our work to protect port communities from air pollution.

Terrance Bankston, Senior Ports and Freights Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, released the following statement:

We’re elated by the EPA’s decision to finalize a significantly stronger air quality standard that will better protect all Americans, especially port communities. Many Americans have been subjected to disproportionate health risks from air pollution via port operations for decades. The biggest offender has and continues to be soot pollution from port emissions. For LatinX residents, the exposure to soot pollution is 75% higher. For Black Americans, the risk of dying from soot pollution is the highest, with a rate of over triple that of White Americans.

Today, we celebrate the EPA’s choice to prioritize people and the planet. Tomorrow, the hard work continues as we urge port officials to take advantage of the $3 billion that will be available through the EPA’s Clean Ports Program to fund zero-emission port equipment and technology. As a follow up to today’s action taken by the EPA, ports must focus their attention on implementing funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. These bills create unique opportunities to support port emission-reduction efforts, which haven’t been prioritized historically. We encourage port stakeholders to use the EPA’s announcement as an opportunity to be on the right side of history.

Altorice Frazier, Executive Director and Community Organizer for Parents Engaging Parents New Jersey, said:

Parents Engaging Parents Inc. recognizes the critical strides made towards cleaner air with the EPA’s updated soot pollution standards. This progress reflects our mission to advocate for the health and well-being of all families, especially in Newark, New Jersey, where Black, Brown, and economically disadvantaged communities have faced longstanding disparities in environmental quality. The efforts of President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan to enforce stricter pollution controls align with our vision of a healthier, more equitable environment where children, regardless of their background, can play outside without the threat of asthma or other health risks. We celebrate this advancement towards reducing soot pollution but also acknowledge the need for ongoing action to ensure environmental justice. Consistent with our commitment to support parents and communities, we urge further policy enhancements to protect our air and health, guaranteeing everyone the right to clean air and a safe, vibrant community life.

Sharon Lavigne, Founder and Executive Director for RISE St. James in Louisiana, said:

Clean air is a fundamental right for all, so we appreciate this milestone change.  From the burning of fossil fuels to the bustling activity along ports, trains, the mighty Mississippi River, and the constant flow of big trucks throughout Cancer Alley, we find ourselves surrounded by pollutants.  This serves as a steppingstone, and we extend our heartfelt appreciation to President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan.  By reducing soot particles, health outcomes should also improve such as respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases.

Jeffrey Richardson, Chairman for the Delaware Community Benefits Agreement Coalition in Wilmington, DE, said:

The announcement this week by the EPA that a lower level for Pm 2.5 has been established is objectively an improvement, as the previous level of 12 PM2.5, µg/m3 has been reduced to 9 PM2.5, µg/m3.  This is a step in the right direction. It must be tempered by the fact that the World Health Organization recommends a level of 5 PM2.5, µg/m3 . The new guidelines will provide port adjacent communities, like the ones in Wilmington Delaware, with another tool to address the damage of 100 years of port operations. There has been little regard to the concerns of community residents. This is a time for dramatic change on all environmental fronts and coordinated efforts to ensure that impacted communities actually receive the benefit of resources that have been allocated to clean the environment and specifically ports.

Paulina Lopez, Executive Director for the Duwamish River Community Coalition (DRCC) in Seattle, WA, said:

As a member of the Duwamish Valley in South Seattle, a near Port community, I am very grateful for this long overdue final rule towards clean and healthy air for overburdened communities with health inequities. We suffer from dangerous exposures to PM2.5.  Our community is one of the city’s most culturally and racially diverse neighborhoods and also the most overburdened with environmental pollution like black carbon and heavy metal concentrations.  We will be looking very closely at how our community meets revised standards and work with the Port of Seattle closely to move towards zero-emission technology to protect communities historically impacted by multiple pollution sources.

Communications contact: Erika Seiber, [email protected]

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