Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A new analysis shows that civil penalties for polluters have declined 85 percent since President Donald Trump took office. (Photo: isciencetimes.com)

Trump EPA 'Defies Logic' With Emission Standard Rule—Even as Experts Warn Air Pollution Makes Coronavirus More Deadly

Decision by EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler denounced for being "as tone-deaf as it is reckless."

Julia Conley

On the heels of a Harvard University study which showed the long-term effects of air pollution can make coronavirus patients more likely to die from the disease, President Donald Trump's EPA flouted its own scientists' guidance Tuesday when it announced it would not tighten regulations on industrial soot emissions.

According to the New York Times, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler determined that scientists at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health seemed "to have a bias" when they published a study last week showing that exposure to tiny industrial particles called PM 2.5 is making some Americans more likely to die of the coronavirus.

"If there ever was a moment for all Americans, regardless of political persuasion, to demand the Trump EPA stop gutting the nation's air quality standards and finally place a premium on public health protection, it's now."
—Ken Cook, EWG

As a result, power plants and vehicle manufacturers will not be required to lower emissions.

"This decision by Andrew Wheeler is as tone-deaf as it is reckless," said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook in a statement. "Right now, long-term exposure to PM 2.5 is increasing the number of people who are dying from the coronavirus. If there ever was a moment for all Americans, regardless of political persuasion, to demand the Trump EPA stop gutting the nation's air quality standards and finally place a premium on public health protection, it's now."

Even before the new coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, began spreading across the U.S. last month, killing more than 25,000 people in the country so far, scientists warned that PM 2.5 pollution contributes to tens of thousands of premature deaths in the U.S. every year.

As the Times reported, scientists believe reducing emissions by only nine micrograms per cubic meter would save more than 12,000 people per year.

Wheeler's decision "defies logic," the advocacy group Environment America said.

"Even before COVID-19, the data clearly showed that America's existing air quality standards weren't doing enough to protect our health," said Morgan Folger of Environment America. "Instead of foregoing its responsibility and mission to protect our health and the environment, EPA should listen to the scientists and strengthen soot protections." 

Wheeler reportedly came to his decision following extensive lobbying by automakers and the fossil fuel industry, particularly after the EPA's scientists released last September a 457-page assessment showing that PM 2.5 pollution helps cause about 45,000 deaths per year.

The administrator's "appalling" adherence to the advice of industry polluters rather than scientists and public experts follows a familiar pattern, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said.

"Wheeler spent much of his career lobbying on behalf of powerful industries like coal producers, and it's clear he sees his job at the EPA as a continuation of that work," said Dr. Gretchen Goldman, research director for UCS. "Nearly every decision he's made has been aimed at making it easier and cheaper to pollute, in defiance of science, the public interest, and the EPA's public health mission he’s supposed to carry out. In the face of our current crisis, this indifference to our health is inexcusable."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·


Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo