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ND makes the grade in a national report evaluating public school support; SCOTUS justices express free speech concerns about GOP-backed social media laws; NH "kids on campus" program boosts retention; proposed law bans hemp sales to Hoosiers younger than 21.

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The Supreme Court hears arguments on whether social media can restrict content. Biden advisors point to anti-democracy speeches at CPAC, and the President heads to the US-Mexico border appealing to voters on immigration and border issues.

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David meets Goliath in Idaho pesticide conflict, to win over Gen Z voters, candidates are encouraged to support renewable energy and rural America needs help from Congress to continue affordable internet programs.

New EPA Rules for "Soot" Pollution Could Improve Air for Texans

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Friday, March 3, 2023   

Most Texans take breathing for granted - unless the air is polluted. It's a health issue the Biden administration hopes to mitigate through new restrictions on one of the deadliest air pollutants - soot.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to tighten national air-quality standards for soot - also known as fine particulate pollution - which haven't been updated since 2012.

Texas is among the top five states for soot pollution, but Elena Craft, senior director, Climate and Health at the Environmental Defense Fund, said a national solution is needed.

"It really impacts every community across the country," she said. "It is harmful because of its contribution to heart ailments, lung disease, asthma attacks - even cancer."

The EPA's rule would reduce the limit on industrial fine soot particles from an annual average of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air to between nine and 10 micrograms. Public feedback on the proposed new rules is being accepted through March 28.

Soot pollution comes from power plants, vehicles and refineries, and Craft said it's more concentrated in certain parts of Texas than others.

"Houston, Dallas, El Paso - you do see higher ambient concentrations of particulate matter in some of the larger metropolitan areas, for sure," she said, "and also in some of the industrial areas - so, along the ship channel and the Gulf Coast."

Craft said there are also disparities as to who is most affected by soot pollution - with communities of color more likely to live near industrial facilities, railyards and other polluting facilities. She said it's also an issue for children.

"They breathe more air per pound of body weight than an adult," she said, "and so they are at higher risk, as well as the elderly."

According to Craft, the new standards proposed by the EPA are a welcome improvement, but the Environmental Defense Fund would like to see even stricter rules. The standards are expected to be finalized this summer.

Disclosure: Environmental Defense Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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