In 2021, USEPA announced it would reconsider the previous administration’s decision to retain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter and ozone in order to include more recent scientific evidence regarding the adequacy of the current standards to protect public health and welfare as required by the Clean Air Act.
On March 18, 2022, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) released the "CASAC Review of USEPA’s Policy Assessment for the Reconsideration of the NAAQS for PM"1 and recommended lowering both the annual and 24-hour PM2.5 standards. In May, USEPA will release its final Supplement to the 2019 Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter, and USEPA has also just released a Draft Policy Assessment for the ozone standard. Among other factors, the NAAQS reconsideration includes information related to exposure and risk disparities by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status as part of the decision.
The reconsideration of the particulate matter and ozone NAAQS may have significant implications depending on the stringency of the new standards.
New standards may catalyze further policy and regulatory change for disproportionately impacted communities. Beyond NAAQS reconsiderations, environmental justice activity and policy activity at the federal level continues to develop under the Biden Administration. USEPA recently released screening tools2, including EJScreen 2.03 and the new AirToxScreen. State and local agencies are also actively developing their own policy, regulatory requirements, environmental justice tools and public engagement strategies.
1CASAC. 2022. March 18.
3Broadly, the new version of the software, known as EJScreen 2.0, is designed to help government agencies make more accurate permitting, enforcement, compliance, and outreach decisions, consistent with President Joe Biden’s goal of addressing environmental justice.