EPA announced today it has finalized an unnecessary rule that threatens to undermine air pollution limits essential to restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its waterways and puts the health of the watershed’s most vulnerable residents at the greatest risk.
The rule allows the agency to discount the indirect health benefits (also called “co-benefits”) of many air pollution protections when preparing cost-benefit analyses of clean air standards. Compliance costs to regulated industries will invariably be given greater weight. Yet EPA has provided no evidence to show this rule responds to any real problem.
This change could weaken air protections EPA is relying on to meet its nitrogen-reduction commitment under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Dirty air from power plants and transportation contributes roughly one-third of the nitrogen pollution in the Bay and its rivers and streams. Curbing nitrogen emissions is vital to the success of the Blueprint’s plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and the local rivers and streams that feed into it.
EPA also neglected to consider how this rule might harm at-risk populations such as children, low-income communities, and communities of color. As a result, people whose health may already be compromised, and young children will be hit hardest by breathing problems and neurological damage when lax air quality standards expose them to higher emissions of air pollutants such as small particles and mercury.
Alison Prost, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration, issued this statement about the rule:
“Minimizing the co-benefits of air pollution regulations could weaken the very programs required to achieve the commitments of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, our last, best chance to save the Bay.
“What’s worse, EPA is unnecessarily putting corporate polluters’ bottom line ahead of the health of children, low-income communities, and people of color across the Bay watershed.
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation looks forward to working with President-Elect Joe Biden and his administration to ensure EPA fully values co-benefits when developing air pollution programs to protect human health and the environment.”