U.S. President Joe Biden's administration said Wednesday it will introduce new air quality standards that it says are necessary to protect populations vulnerable to particulate matter but that are drawing the ire of industrial groups.
• Also read: Joe Biden confuses Emmanuel Macron and François Mitterrand, who died in 1996
• Also read: No winner in Nevada's Republican primary, a setback for Haley
• Also read: No presidential immunity for Donald Trump
The announcement comes months before a crucial presidential election in which the Democratic president is expected to face his predecessor Donald Trump, who scrapped dozens of air pollution standards during his time in office.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s new standard addresses particulate matter, a common pollutant that causes health problems such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and others.
Under the new standard, PM 2.5 levels (particles 2.5 micrometers in size and smaller) must not exceed an average annual value of 9 micrograms per cubic meter of air. A value lower than the currently permitted 12 micrograms – a regulation that is already stricter than that of the European Union, where the limit of 25 micrograms is accepted, with the aim of increasing it to 10 by 2030.
This action represents “a major step forward to better protect workers, families and the public from the dangerous and costly impacts of particulate matter pollution,” EPA Director Michael Regan said during a conference call with the press.
Thermal vehicles, industrial chimneys, and forest fires are the most common sources of particulate matter.
The EPA estimates the measure could prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths.
The agency further estimates that this could prevent up to 290,000 lost work hours and produce net health benefits of up to $46 billion in 2032, the first year that U.S. states must comply with these new standards.
The announcement was welcomed by environmental and health groups.
“The scientific research on this type of pollution is so solid…” said Abigail Dillen, president of the environmental rights NGO Earthjustice, pointing to the role of fine particles in “premature deaths from heart attacks” or even “pediatric illnesses.” and asthma in adults” and “many other diseases”.
“We couldn’t be more grateful for this action,” she added.
Industry groups have said the new standard would threaten manufacturing in the United States, and the issue promises to become a new point of contention in some key states ahead of November's presidential election.
“The standards will hinder reshoring (to the United States) and result in maintaining production abroad that is less (environmentally friendly) than production in the United States,” the National Association of Manufacturers explained a year ago Standard was mentioned.
The paper industry – represented by the American Forest & Paper Association – is also a major cause of air pollution and opposes the decision.
But the EPA rejects these associations' allegations and estimates that by 2032, 99% of U.S. counties will be in compliance as air pollution declines thanks to other measures.
The agency adds that American states could receive exceptions for exceptional circumstances in the event of wildfires. A natural disaster whose frequency is expected to increase with climate change.