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(Pittsburgh, PA)- Clean Water Action and our roughly 80,000 Pennsylvania members applaud President Biden and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on finalizing a strengthened national ambient air quality standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) or soot. 

The new annual level will go from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9 micrograms per cubic meter and according to the EPA will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays, yielding up to $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032. For every $1 spent from this action, there could be as much as $77 in human health benefits in 2032.

Clean Water Action has a long history of partnering with Environmental Justice communities in Pennsylvania who have been saddled with public health issues due to industrial pollution. One such area is the Mon Valley in Allegheny County, south of Pittsburgh. It has some of the highest levels of PM2.5 in both Pennsylvania and the United States due in large part to emissions from U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works and Edgar Thomson Plant. These facilities emit more PM2.5 than all the cars and trucks in Allegheny County combined and have led to asthma rates in the Mon Valley that are higher than the national average.

“This is a major step forward in improving air quality, especially in Pennsylvania’s Environmental Justice communities,” said Steve Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaigns Director.  “However, it took Allegheny County a decade to be in attainment for the previous annual standard set in 2012 and taking that long again is totally unacceptable which is why companies, like US Steel need to seriously prioritize achievement by proactively modernizing their facilities.”

While positive progress is being made, EPA still needs to give attention to the 24 hour standard which remained unchained as part of this process but is important in securing the long term health of our communities and environment.


Since the organization’s founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking, and people power to the table.