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Republicans have put Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress; state legislatures are missing people from working-class jobs, and FDA has advice for formulating the next COVID vaccine for a new strain.

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House Republicans vote to hold AG Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. The Senate battles it out over federal protections for in vitro fertilization. North Dakota becomes the first state to impose an age cutoff to run for Congress.

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Rural America's job growth is up, but still hasn't recovered from the pandemic, about one in five rural Americans lives in a town with a prison, rural women seeking birth control have a new option, and dark skies beckon as summer arrives.

Clean Air Groups: EPA Needs to Get Tougher on Soot

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Friday, February 24, 2023   

The federal government is gathering public feedback on proposed revisions to air-quality standards for soot pollution.

Environmental voices in the Midwest and elsewhere say they show promise but need to be stronger. For the first time in a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed updating the standard for soot, fine particulate matter linked to illnesses like asthma and heart disease. The proposal reduces the annual standard from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to a level between nine and 10 micrograms.

Elizabeth Hauptman, Midwest organizer for the group Moms Clean Air Force, said it would have positive effects, but worries it will not be enough to protect the health of her son with asthma.

"He misses out on summer camps, outdoor basketball games and swim meets, or barbecues with family because the air quality is just too bad," Hauptman explained.

The EPA said the plan reflects the latest health data and scientific evidence, but it is accepting feedback based on other suggestions as well. Some in the manufacturing industry said they are already leading the way to improve air quality and do not need additional rules. The agency held public hearings this week and is accepting public comments until March 28.

An independent scientific advisory committee for the EPA had recommended a standard between eight and 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Patrick Drupp, director of climate policy for the Sierra Club, thinks it is what the agency should use.

"The EPA could save up to 20,000 lives per year, based on their own science and their own analysis," Drupp pointed out. "Adopting a more stringent standard, going from the low end of what they proposed of nine to what we're asking for -- of no higher than eight -- can save an additional 4,000 lives."

The group added industrial sites and highways emitting soot pollution are often located near marginalized communities, which perpetuate environmental injustice. And University of Minnesota researchers found other concerning trends affecting air quality, including animal agriculture and wood-burning stoves.

Disclosure: The Sierra Club contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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