Press Releases

Tighter Federal Soot Standards Will Benefit the Adirondacks

Thursday, February 8, 2024

ALBANY, N.Y. – The Biden-Harris administration’s decision to tighten the nation’s emissions standards for fine particles of soot pollution by 25% drew praise today from the Adirondack Council, which said the change would prevent more than 4,000 premature deaths each year.

The new rule governs particles 2.5 microns and smaller, which harm lung function and contribute to heart disease because they are too small to be coughed out and can introduce toxins into the blood stream.  The new standard improves the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine soot particles from the current limit of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9 micrograms per cubic meter. The new standard would go into full effect in 2032.

“The Biden-Harris administration did the Adirondack Park and urban communities a favor today.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that this improvement will save 4,500 lives per year by 2032,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director Raul J. Aguirre.  “Most of the lives saved will be people who are currently living in the cities of the Northeast, where the pollution from Midwest power plants combines with local sources to create a public health hazard. 

“Vulnerable, low-income communities across the Northeast cannot afford the legal representation and lobbyists to defend them against polluters,” Aguirre said.  “New York’s urban frontline communities need the EPA’s help, just as the people of the Adirondacks need the EPA’s help to protect them from acid rain. While we believe EPA would have been justified if it had cut the pollution standard by 50% or more, this improvement is substantial. So, we say ‘thank you’ today, and tomorrow we start working to reduce it further.”

Soot is produced by burning coal, oil, gasoline and diesel fuel, and from some industrial processes.  Like the air pollution that causes acid rain and smog, soot can travel on air currents for hundreds of miles before falling to the ground.  When inhaled, soot causes and worsens lung disease. 

“In addition to its awful health impacts, soot pollution also darkens the snow and ice here in the Adirondacks, and across the Northeast, causing it to melt more quickly,” Aguirre said. “When combined with the effects of a warming climate, the result is shorter winters and increased chances for flash floods. It also means decreased winter recreational opportunities for skiers, skaters, ice fishers, snowmobilers and ice climbers.”

Aguirre pointed out that the Adirondack Park is the southern-most region of the United States where winter sports still dominate the local culture. Protecting cold weather means protecting the economy too.

EPA estimates that the nation will realize a $77 economic benefit for every $1 spent curbing soot pollution.  Most of the savings comes from avoiding costs associated with illness, medical care, prescription drugs, lost work days and premature deaths. The Adirondack Council is a member of a national coalition of clean air advocacy organizations working to curb soot pollution and other pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act and National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the 9,300-square-mile Adirondack Park – the world’s largest intact temperate deciduous forest ecosystem and home to about 130,000 New York residents in 130 rural communities.

Established in 1975, the Adirondack Council is the largest environmental organization whose sole focus is the Adirondacks. The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. The Adirondack Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, core wilderness areas, farms and working forests, and vibrant, diverse, welcoming, safe communities.

For more information: John Sheehan, Adirondack Council, 518-441-1340

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