Too many people in the United States live their daily lives with air unhealthy for them to breathe in — this is what the findings of America Lung Association in its annual report, State of The Air 2019, is pointing out.
While substantial progress has been made to clean up the air in the US in the previous decade, there are some challenges that remain. America Lung Association identified seven major threats to the air quality in the US right now. Let’s look at them one by one.
1. Repealing plans to reduce carbon pollution from power plants
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) was repealed recently, in favour of Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. Unlike CPP, the ACE rule imposes minimal limits in the carbon emission in power plants.
This is a huge step backwards in reducing the contribution of the US to the world’s carbon emissions. According to the Lung Association, independent scientists found that this would heighten the risk of premature deaths as well as asthma attacks.
2. Removing limits on methane and other emissions from oil and gas operations
Last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) weakened the regulation in methane emissions set in place back in 2016 by rolling back some provisions. This is despite the recent elevation of unhealthy ozone levels in places where oil and gas production expanded.
Rather than seeing these regulations at inconveniences, it is about time to see that stricter regulation in emissions is for the protection of the Americans and the mitigation of climate change.
3. Opening doors for more polluting cars and trucks
EPA and the Department of Transportation also proposed to weaken the limits on vehicle emissions through the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule in order to save costs in the industry.
With the limits for greenhouse emissions and standards for fuel economy lowered, we are allowing more pollution to taint the quality of air in the country.
4. Cutting funding and expertise needed to clean up the air
President Trump is proposing to cut the EPA budget by 31% for the fiscal year 2020. Needless to say, such a reduction will greatly disempower the EPA when it comes to protecting public health. Hopefully, this proposal won’t push through just like it didn’t in the past year.
5. Stacking the deck to deny the scientific evidence
EPA has recently taken steps to remove independent advisors from key air quality assessment committees such as the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). Last year, an entire panel of scientific experts for the review of air quality standards was dismissed by the agency. The success of the
Clean Air Act is highly linked to the studies backing up the decisions of EPA. The steps are slowly defanging this law.
6. Weakening Clean Air Act Implementation
Several proposals of the EPA that will directly weaken the implementation of the Clean Air Act include:
- A proposal to redefine “ambient air” to permit industries to increase emissions in their facilities, and;
- A proposal to repeal the “once in, always in” policy which forever subjects facilities classified as a major source of pollution to stricter standards, even if their emissions go down. Needless to say, this will promote the increase of emissions once more.
7. Weakening the Clean Air Act
Even the Clean Air Act is under attack, with its provisions being repeatedly challenged over time. Rolling back such fundamental environmental protection laws is a huge threat which will damage not only the quality of air but threaten our environment in general.
With all of these seven threats laid down, leaders are encouraged to consider the safety of its citizens. Citizens, on the other hand, should be fully aware of the repercussions of these attempts to weaken environmental protections concerning air quality.