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Litigation

U.S. EPA to re-examine health standards for harmful soot

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Signage is seen at the headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

WASHINGTON, June 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Thursday it would re-examine health standards for harmful soot that the previous Trump administration had left unchanged.

This is the latest federal air and water regulation that the Biden administration will revisit after the Trump administration either rolled back standards or left them unchanged. The Biden administration will examine the December 2020 decision that left the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter, or soot, unchanged.

Exposure to soot and fine particulate matter, which can come from coal-fired power and industrial plants and vehicle tail pipes, has been linked to health issues ranging from asthma to heart attacks.

The EPA said it was reconsidering the decision on NAAQS "because available scientific evidence and technical information indicate that the current standards may not be adequate to protect public health and welfare, as required by the Clean Air Act."

"The most vulnerable among us are most at risk from exposure to particulate matter, and that's why it's so important we take a hard look at these standards that haven't been updated in nine years," said EPA Administrator Michael Regan said.

Fine particulate matter is one of the most common ambient air pollutants. Recent studies have shown that the pollutant, known as PM 2.5, has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities.

The agency is required to review the NAAQS, which sets limits on the concentrations of soot from coal-fired power and industrial plants and vehicle tail pipes every five years, and has tended to tighten them regularly after scientific review.

Environmental groups said the move by EPA to revisit the standard will return the agency to a process that is guided by scientific advice.

"The Trump administration undermined the NAAQS review process and finalized a rule that retained the existing standards, ignored the latest science calling into question the adequacy of those standards, and failed to adequately protect public health," said Hayden Hashimoto, an attorney with the Clean Air Task Force.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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