NEW ORLEANS: Following the EPA’s announcement on a proposal to strengthen a key national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particle pollution also known as PM2.5, to better protect communities, Dr. Beverly Wright, Founder and Executive Director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), released the following statement:

Black people are exposed to PM2.5 air pollution at a rate that is 1.54 times higher than the population at large. The recent announcement by the EPA on a proposed standard for PM2.5 does not address this racially disproportionate pollution burden, which causes premature deaths and damages the heart and lungs. We need the EPA to follow the science showing public health benefits can be achieved by reducing the annual level of PM2.5 to 8 micrograms per cubic meter.

As we near the second anniversary of the Biden Administration’s policy to “deliver environmental justice,” we are encouraged by EPA Administrator Regan’s efforts to ensure that communities whose everyday lives are impacted by pollution are heard. We urge the EPA to hold public hearings on its draft PM2.5 regulation in communities overburdened with pollution, in particular the fine soot particles emitted from smokestacks and tailpipes.

The time for debating whether or not to reduce PM2.5 is over. Now is the time for action that sets and enforces a standard protective of environmental justice communities.