On a High Note: Biden Administration Makes Two Big Moves to Clean Up Air Pollution

On a High Note: Biden Administration Makes Two Big Moves to Clean Up Air Pollution

There have been two wins in the fight to clean up air pollution this week, which is a good thing since emissions levels are at an all-time high. On Wednesday, the Biden Administration reinstated California's authority to set its own stricter-than-national emissions standards, a right revoked from the state under President Trump's EPA. As for the broader US, trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles will soon need to clean up their air pollution, says the Administration's newly proposed rule that would require them to slash nitrogen oxides (NOx) and swap diesel-burning engines for green-powered ones. This marks the second win, as heavy-duty vehicles make up about a quarter of the US transportation emissions and are the worst offenders for NOx pollution, which can cause asthma, lung disease, and other respiratory health issues. Since highways and other busy roads carrying this kind of traffic are predominantly in communities of color and low-income areas, they currently face higher levels of NOx pollution and its negative health impacts. The heavy-duty vehicle category also includes school buses, and this week’s announcement included $17 million from the EPA to fund electric zero-emission and low-emission school buses.

The new rule will prevent roughly 2,000 deaths annually, eliminate 18,000 cases of childhood asthma, and lead to 1.1 million fewer missed days of school, according to a White House fact sheet. As this latest announcement makes clear, air pollution is both a climate concern and a public health concern. On a global scale, a study released in September found that eliminating air pollution would extend people's life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years.

Reuters: 2021 saw jump in greenhouse-gas emissions, says report, January 10, 2022.

American Lung Association: Climate and Your Health, April 5, 2021.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Electric Vehicles - The Promise for Health and Equity, September 14, 2021.