Carol M. Browner, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a former agency administrator (from 1993 to 2001), released the following statement on the agency’s action:
The Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution standards are based on the best available science and updates to existing standards based on the new scientific evidence required under the law. We already know soot is a deadly air pollutant that takes tens of thousands of lives every year, increases the rates of heart attacks and lung disease, and exacerbates asthma attacks. And we also know that reducing the levels of soot pollution in the air can reduce these risks. The agency’s updated soot pollution protections will save lives and improve public health.
Opponents of strengthening this important public health standard say it’s not necessary. We’ve heard that before. As with the Environmental Protection Agency’s public health protections against lead in gasoline, acid rain, airborne toxic chemicals, and other pollutants, the industry predicted negative economic impacts. In reality, though, American innovation found a way to meet the standards while contributing new technology and jobs to the economy. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and healthy air and lungs. We can have both.
The agency has taken significant steps over the past four years to clean up our air, with new clean car and fuel efficiency standards, new protections against mercury pollution, and now stronger standards to protect us against soot pollution. The Obama administration should be commended for this work and encouraged to continue to fight for cleaner air with protections against carbon pollution from power plants.
As the agency administrator, Browner in 1997 led the charge to tighter the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards on acceptable levels of smog and the fine airborne particulate matter that makes up soot. She successfully convinced the Clinton administration to support these stricter air pollution protections and persuaded Congress to accept them. At the time, Browner argued that new air pollution protections against soot and smog “will provide new health protections to 125 million Americans, including 35 million children.” The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the soot and smog protections against legal challenges.