“This is highly irresponsible,” she said. “It follows this pattern of this administration ignoring science and scientists.” Of the incoming Biden administration, she said, “I truly, truly hope they revise the rule. The evidence is there. It’s so bad.”
The new rule retains a standard enacted in 2012, during the Obama administration. That rule limited the pollution of industrial fine soot particles — each about 1/30th the width of a human hair, but associated with heart attacks, strokes and premature deaths — to 12 micrograms per cubic meter.
When E.P.A. scientists conducted that mandatory review, many concluded that if the federal government tightened that standard to about nine micrograms per cubic meter, more than 10,000 American lives could be saved a year.
In a draft 457-page scientific assessment of the risks associated with keeping or strengthening the fine soot pollution rule, career scientists at the E.P.A. estimated that the current standard is “associated with 45,000 deaths” annually. The scientists wrote that if the rule were tightened to nine micrograms per cubic meter, annual deaths would fall by about 27 percent, or 12,150 people a year.
After the publication of that report, numerous industries, including oil and coal companies, automakers and chemical manufacturers, urged the Trump administration to disregard the findings and not tighten the rule.
In a November 2019 public comment submitted by 13 industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the industry representatives wrote, “significant uncertainty remains about the relationship between exposure to PM 2.5 and adverse effects on public health.”
The E.P.A.’s leaders agreed with the industries’ assessment. In December last year, a seven-member E.P.A. advisory panel, composed mostly of members appointed by Trump administration, told Mr. Wheeler the career scientists’ findings were not conclusive enough to support tightening the rule. A final version of the scientists’ report, published in January to preview the still-unpublished rule, does say the rule as it stands contributes to 45,000 deaths annually, but it also says only that tightening it would reduce “health risks,” not deaths.