Attorney General Becerra Challenges Trump Administration Rule Leaving in Place Insufficient Standards Regulating Particulate Matter Pollution

Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of 17 attorneys general and the City of New York in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s decision to leave current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter pollution unchanged. Particulate matter (PM2.5) is a pollutant emitted from a variety of sources including vehicles, factories, and construction sites. Particulate matter exposure at the current standards causes up to 45,000 deaths per year nationwide and disproportionately impacts California’s most vulnerable populations. In addition, particulate matter is linked to increased mortality from COVID-19 and many serious public health problems including cardiovascular disease, respiratory impacts, and cancer.

"The Trump Administration's failure to strengthen standards regulating particulate matter is a devastating blow for Californians already facing some of the highest levels of air pollution in the country," said Attorney General Becerra. "Study after study shows the negative health impacts of particulate matter pollution to our most vulnerable communities – impacts only exacerbated by COVID-19. History books will record unkindly the Trump Administration's callous disregard for their lives and the willful denial of science and the law. We're determined to make sure this unlawful decision does not survive.”

“President Trump has spent four years in an anti-environmental assault causing immeasurable damage to public health. Even as the Administration prepares to leave the White House in shame, Trump's EPA is working overtime to endanger the air we breathe,” said Jared Blumenfeld, California’s Secretary for Environmental Protection. “Failing to follow the science means more fine particle air pollution, which we now know increases COVID-19 mortalities. It is time to demand an end to this madness. California is proud to join 16 other states to fight to demand EPA set health standards based on actual science.”

“Particulate emissions, such as PM 2.5, cause or contributes to a multitude of illnesses, including asthma, heart disease and premature deaths. Exposure to particulate matter costs the economy billions in health costs from deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits and contributes to lost work and school days,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “U.S. EPA’s refusal to adopt more health protective standards for a known carcinogen in the face of strong evidence to the contrary shows a flagrant disregard for those Californians’ health, as well as the state’s environment. EPA must reconsider this standard in light of the actual health-based, scientific evidence.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set NAAQS for several pollutants, including particulate matter at a level that protects public health and welfare. The EPA is required to periodically review the standards and revise them if new information shows that the existing standards are inadequate. The EPA’s standards provide key support for California and other states’ programs to address particulate matter pollution within their borders. This partnership has reduced annual concentrations of PM2.5 by 39 percent between 2000 and 2018. Nevertheless, the evidence shows that more protection is necessary. Since the EPA’s last review in 2012, new studies have made clear that exposure to particulate matter causes grievous health impacts, even at levels below the current standards. The EPA’s own staff concurred on these conclusions. Additionally, multiple studies – highlighted in June and November comment letters submitted by state attorneys general – have found links between mortality from COVID-19 and particulate matter exposure.  

In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the EPA’s decision to retain the current standards for particulate matter pollution was arbitrary and capricious because:

  • The EPA conducted a flawed and unlawfully biased review of the current NAAQS; and
  • The available science clearly demonstrates the need for the EPA to strengthen the NAAQS.

In filing today’s lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the City of New York, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

# # #