More than 160 public health and environmental groups joined the Climate Action Campaign last week to press the federal government for stronger pollution regulations, hoping to build on momentum from the climate bill signed by President Biden in August.
The “Solutions for Pollution” campaign, which officially launched in D.C. on Sept. 12, calls for tighter emissions standards on vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities. Launch events took place this week in seven other states — Arizona, Georgia, New Jersey, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire — and another is scheduled in Wisconsin on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
“We realize that none of us can do this work alone,” said Peggy Shepherd, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, at a press conference marking the campaign’s launch.
“We need a broad base of support, but we also need the diverse voices of the communities that have been most exploited by the fossil fuels industry, and we need to enhance sustainability in our communities,” Shepherd added.
The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act is expected to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 compared to peak levels in 2005. However, President Biden has committed to a 50% reduction in that timeframe. Climate Action Campaign’s director, Margie Alt, said that the recommendations outlined in the Solutions for Pollution plan would help bridge that gap.
“Really, what we are launching today is our roadmap for the Biden administration, a set of policies that if and when implemented, and implemented well, will get us that additional margin,” Alt said.
In addition to policies focused on climate change, the Solutions for Pollution recommendations include tougher regulations on two of the District’s most common air pollutants: ground-level ozone, or smog, and fine particulate matter. Both cause asthma and respiratory problems, and particulate matter is also linked to heart attacks and lung cancer.
In D.C., as in the rest of the country, the impacts of air pollution are not spread equitably. Fine particle pollution hits Wards 5, 7, and 8 the hardest, according to a 2021 study published in the journal GeoHealth.
Those researchers found that Fort Dupont and Marshall Heights, both in Ward 7, experience the city’s highest rates of pollution-related premature deaths—four times as many as there were in Woodley Park and Georgetown East, in Wards 3 and 2.
Advocacy leaders involved with Solutions for Pollution hope that the campaign’s efforts to promote stronger clean air standards will help shrink the disparities and reduce air pollution overall.
“Most of the communities that are totally polluted are environmental justice communities, so if this coalition is doing what we hope it will do, it will impact those frontline communities,” Shepherd said in an interview.
“But there’s not going to be any one single effort that’s going to do everything [to address] the decades of disinvestment and the decades of racism,” Shepherd warned.