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The EPA Has Weakened Air Pollution Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency has rolled back air pollution standards in a series of memos issued over the last four months, according to the Hill.

The memos give new life to failed Bush-era proposals that limit how much the EPA can regulate industry emissions. One memo from December states that, under the New Source Review program, in which the EPA evaluates big changes to existing facilities, the agency "does not intend to substitute its judgement for that of the owner or operator by 'second guessing' the owner or operator's emissions projections." Another memo from January allows operations classified as "major" pollution sources to be downgraded to "minor" sources if their emissions drop, undermining the agency's ability to better scrutinize those with a history of pollution.

A March memo allows changes to the calculation companies use to estimate new projects' future emissions, and the last memo, issued just last week and signed by President Donald Trump, calls on the EPA to adjust the National Ambient Air Quality Standards to favor industry.

Environmental and public-health advocates say the changes are "radical" and dangerous to human health, and have criticized the EPA—and Bill Wehrum, the head of the agency's air office in particular—for a lack of transparency and failure to include public input as required by law for regulatory rule changes.

"I think Mr. Wehrum has decided this is likely a one-term administration and he's going to devote his full resources to rolling back clean air, climate and public-health protections in the time available to him," John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Hill.