Blunt Rochester, Duckworth, and Congressional Environmental Justice Leaders Introduce Bill to Improve Air Quality Monitoring, Protect Frontline Communities

WASHINGTON - Today, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022. The bill would require the EPA to implement immediate fenceline monitoring for toxic air pollutants at facilities contributing to high local cancer rates and other health threats from dangerous pollutants. Joining Blunt Rochester and Duckworth as original sponsors of the bill were Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) along with Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). 

“Our frontline and fenceline communities have, for decades, been subject to unsafe air and have suffered the long-term health consequences and complications because of it,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester (D-Del.). “The first step in protecting these communities is figuring out what pollutants they are currently exposed to. Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, which is what we are fighting for with the introduction of the Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022. I'm proud to join with Senator Duckworth and House & Senate Environmental Justice leaders for this aggressive expansion of our national air quality monitoring program.” 

“For generations, our most toxic industries have been put next door to low-income communities and communities of color— forcing these communities to shoulder the devastating health consequences of legacy air pollution and other environmental injustices, including alarming rates of cancer and asthma,” said Senator Duckworth (D–Ill.). “As a co-founder and co-chair of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus, today I’m proud to introduce the Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022 alongside Congresswoman Blunt Rochester to right this wrong by helping expand and improve our national air monitoring system and protect every American’s right to breathe safe air—no matter their skin color, zip code or the size of their wallet.”


“Harmful air pollution disproportionately impacts vulnerable frontline and fenceline communities across the United States. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we take federal action to protect these communities and bolster the EPA’s ability to provide accurate and transparent data,” said Rep. McEachin (D-Va.). “I am proud to help introduce the Public Health Air Quality Act to help protect Americans’ right to breathe clean air. This legislation is another important step in our continued fight for environmental justice for every American, regardless of their socioeconomic status or zip code.”

“Communities of color and low-income communities in my district and throughout the country just want to breathe clean air. At the same time, they want to be aware of dangerous air quality to avoid health complications. Far too often, the EPA, states, and local air quality agencies lack the resources to monitor polluting facilities for violations or to make the public aware of the health of their air. This issue is a priority, and why it was important to be an original cosponsor the Public Health Air Quality Act. This bill will significantly strengthen our nation’s air quality monitoring network and help empower our communities and agencies to hold polluters accountable.” - Rep. Barragán (D-Calif.)

“The Public Health Air Quality Act will empower vulnerable communities as they advocate for clean air, climate justice, and cleaner electric cars, buses, and trucks in their neighborhoods,” said Chair Castor of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (D-Fla.) “Air pollution is a killer – and its effects are felt disproportionately in environmental justice communities across the nation. That’s why I’m proud to cosponsor this bill, which will invest in air quality monitoring and expand access to critical data. It’s one more step in our fight for a clean energy economy that works for every community, as we free Americans from dirty fossil fuels and transition to clean, affordable, and abundant renewable energy.”


“We cannot ignore the serious public health effects of toxic air pollution,” said Congresswoman Underwood (D-Ill.). “The Public Health Air Quality Act would help communities, like my own in northern Illinois, get much-needed answers on whether the air they are breathing is safe. I’m cosponsoring this legislation to ensure that lawmakers have the data needed to improve the safety and well-being of families impacted by air pollution.”


“Frontline communities have been calling for strong, continuous air monitoring on industrial fencelines for decades. Earthjustice applauds Rep. Blunt Rochester and Senator Duckworth for listening and we celebrate reintroduction of this important legislation,” said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Terry McGuire. “Unhealthy air is unjust and avoidable, and information is a critical first step to stronger protections. People have a right to know whether their air is safe to breathe. We have the tools and technology to better safeguard our families. It’s past time for Congress and EPA to act.”

“For too long, industries have been able to hide behind serious gaps in our air quality monitoring networks as they spew toxic pollutants into our most vulnerable communities,” Patrick Drupp, Sierra Club Deputy Legislative Director, Climate and Clean Air said. “The common-sense solutions in the Public Health Air Quality Act are necessary to hold polluters accountable and ensure communities finally receive the essential health protections they deserve.” 

“The Clean Air Act has driven dramatic reductions in air pollution nationwide, but too many communities are still breathing unhealthy air. The Public Health Air Quality Act would expand air quality monitoring and help ensure targeted cleanup of dangerous air pollution. I applaud Representative Blunt Rochester and Senator Duckworth for their work to improve lung health and environmental justice.” - Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO, American Lung Association 

“A lack of adequate air pollution monitoring is a direct threat to the health of the millions of people who live with unhealthy air. It is crucial that all people and communities across our country – with no one left behind – have information about the air they breathe. We thank Representative Blunt Rochester and Senator Duckworth for their leadership in introducing the Public Health Air Quality Act and prioritizing the health of our communities.” - Vickie Patton, General Counsel for Environmental Defense Fund. 

The Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022 has been endorsed by the following organizations: Earthjustice, Sierra Club, American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, WE ACT, Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (GASP), Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Colorado Latino Forum, California Communities Against Toxics. 


 The Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022 would:

  •  Require the EPA to implement immediate fenceline monitoring for toxic air pollutants at 100 facilities contributing to high local cancer and other health threats from dangerous pollutants like ethylene oxide, chloroprene, and formaldehyde within 18 months for at least a six-year period..  Air monitoring data, monitor maintenance information,  and any actions taken using the data must be made publicly available and accessible in multiple languages.  EPA must update emission test methods and emission factors if necessary, based on new air data.   
  • Ensure that fenceline monitoring and continuous emission monitoring are core components of national emission standards for chemical, petrochemical, and other sources of fugitive toxic air pollution to assure compliance with pollution limits, and so that communities never again have to wonder what is in their air.  EPA must issue rules to implement the best available method of fenceline monitoring and corrective action in the highest threat source categories with fugitive emissions within two years, applying at least the fenceline monitoring method used at petroleum refineries and where needed to assure compliance or protect public health, using more protective monitoring methods such as summa canisters and optical remote sensing or real-time monitoring technology. 
  • Require a rapid expansion of the NAAQS or national ambient air monitoring network through the addition of at least 80 new NCore multipollutant monitoring stations in communities where this is most needed to protect people with asthma and other health conditions and from COVId-19.  It also requires an additional 100 pollutant-specific monitors to be deployed in unmonitored or under-monitored areas. EPA must also assess and report on the status of the entire network and a plan to address all failing monitors and must perform repair and maintenance at broken or failing monitors where this is most needed.   
  • Deploy at least 1,000 new air quality sensors in communities affected by air pollution and complement the NAAQS monitoring network and increase communities’ access to information about air quality. 
  • Directs EPA to integrate data collected through these programs into EJSCREEN, the agency’s publicly available environmental justice screening and mapping tool.



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