Clearing the air

On day one, Biden tasked his agencies with reviewing the Trump administration’s decision not to strengthen health standards for smog and soot

Trump’s EPA dismissed key academic scientific advisors and decided against tightening the standards for fine particles and ozone, despite findings that they are too lax to protect the public and could contribute to tens of thousands of premature deaths

About 92% of Californians already live in places that violate existing federal standards for these pollutants. Strengthening them would force California’s local and state agencies to come up with more aggressive plans to cut even more pollution than they are now planning. 

Trump’s EPA also changed a rule that required major polluters, such as oil refineries and chemical plants, to permanently maintain controls for hazardous air pollutants once they’ve hit a certain emissions threshold. Under Trump’s change, facilities that dip below that threshold can pollute up to the limit and avoid requirements to monitor and report emissions. 

The Biden administration has promised to spotlight environmental justice and tasked the EPA with reviewing the rule, which California has challenged in court. Still, it could take years to see major air-quality moves from a gutted EPA.