A bevy of Democratic senators and governors did not clarify whether they support or oppose the Biden administration’s latest air quality regulation despite the policy’s potential negative impacts on their states.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its update to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter PM2.5, imposing stringent restrictions despite warnings from industrial executives, energy policy experts and elected Republicans that tightened NAAQS could severely hurt America’s economy. Certain states will have a more difficult time coming into full compliance with the tightened standards than others, but many elected Democrats in those states did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to whether or not they approve of the EPA’s new regulation.

California will likely have the most difficulty coming into full compliance with the rule, according to EPA projections. A spokesperson for Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom referred the DCNF to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) when asked whether Newsom himself supports the policy.

Democratic California Sen. Laphonza Butler’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Alex Padilla, California’s other Democratic senator, did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment, but he told E&E News that the new NAAQS threshold is “not quite at the level we were hoping for, but I think it’s a huge step in the grand scheme of things,” implying that EPA should have gone further.

The agency’s new rule cuts the annual PM2.5 standard from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to nine micrograms per cubic matter, or by about 25%. The EPA claims that the revised rules will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays, and that it will produce up to $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032. However, the National Association of Manufacturers, which strongly opposes the NAAQS update, says that the regulation could threaten up to nearly $200 billion of economic activity and as many as 973,000 jobs.


However, tightened PM2.5 NAAQS could “dramatically create a perverse disincentive for American investment” because “even in areas that would meet the EPA’s proposed standards, current PM2.5 background levels are so close to the proposed standards that no room would be left for new economic development,” according to an October 2023 letter to White House chief of staff Jeff Zients signed by more than 70 industrial executives and trade group representatives. The states that would likely be most negatively impacted by a finalized PM 2.5 NAAQS update would be Texas, California, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and Illinois, among others, according to the letter’s text.

The offices of Democratic Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock did not respond immediately to inquiries about their position on the regulation. Similarly, Democratic Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania did not engage with multiple inquiries, nor did Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro.

The offices of Democratic Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who typically caucuses with Democrats, did not return several requests to clarify their view of the new NAAQS. Neither did the office of Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs.

Representatives for J.B. Pritzker, Illinois’ Democratic governor, did not respond to several inquiries about his stance on the regulation, and the office of Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who is up for reelection later this year in a toss-up race, also did not respond to several similar inquiries.

Notably, EPA data demonstrates that seasonally-adjusted national average PM 2.5 concentration decreased by 42% between 2000 and 2022, over which time American GDP increased by more than 50%.

Nick Pope on February 11, 2024

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