RHA Statement on U.S. EPA Proposed Fine Particle Health Standard

Sign our letter to tell the U.S. EPA to set a stronger fine particle standard!

January 27, 2023 – Chicago, IL – On January 6th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was proposing changes to the federal health standard for fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), one of the most widespread and deadly pollutants in the United States. Despite our hope that an objective view of the collected scientific record would result in a proposed standard truly protective of public health, particularly for the most vulnerable people and communities, Respiratory Health Association was disappointed by the content of EPA’s announcement.

It is abundantly clear that the EPA-favored proposal would simply leave too much deadly soot in the air people breathe. While the scope of the new proposal is an improvement over the current standard, it favors setting a health standard that is too lax by leaning away from limiting pollution to levels that would save nearly 20,000 lives additional lives a year.

Based on the collected scientific knowledge and independent expert opinion, Respiratory Health Association believes this air quality health standard must be tightened to the greatest extent possible under consideration, specifically 8 micrograms/m3 on an annual basis and 25 micrograms/m3 on a 24-hour basis.

This issue is literally one of life and death. Breathing fine particulate matter in the air is literally a death sentence for thousands of Americans every year. Legally allowing this pollution to remain at levels that will continue to add to this tragedy would be not only irresponsible of EPA but patently unjust for the low-income and minority communities now seeing both the highest levels of pollution and the consequent disproportionate health and life impacts.

Americans deserve clean air and that right should not be constrained by the wishes of polluters to continue to emit harmful material into the air. EPA Administrator Regan will make the final call on what EPA’s new health standard will be for deadly fine particulate matter this year. We strongly encourage him to set the tightest standard possible to protect the health of all Americans and prevent the greatest number of premature deaths, particularly for those living with and at risk of developing lung disease.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

Take a Stand Against Coal Plant Pollution

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is working openly to allow most of Illinois’ remaining coal-fired power plants to nearly double their emissions of lung-damaging air pollution.  Dynegy, an energy company that owns eight coal plants in Illinois, started working behind the scenes with the IEPA over a year ago to weaken existing public health protections from air pollution.

Press conference with clean air activists

Brian Urbaszewski, RHA’s Director of Environmental Health Policy at a press event opposing the ruling.

The IEPA is pushing the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) to remove existing limits on the pollution emission rates for this fleet of eight coal plants in southern and central Illinois and to instead impose annual caps on how many tons of deadly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides the plants emit. The proposed rollback would allow Dynegy to keep dirty coal plants open while closing cleaner ones equipped with pollution ‘scrubbers’ and to emit approximately 30,000 more tons of air pollution every year that triggers asthma attacks, emergency department visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths.

RHA has spoken out against these efforts that could drastically increase dangerous air pollution and harm people living with lung disease and will continue to do so.

This month, we joined with our partner organizations to file a motion to stop the hearings on Dynegy’s rollback proposal until Dynegy completes a recent merger with a much larger company.  Texas-based Vistra Energy acquired Dynegy in October 2017 and has not been involved in this rulemaking. We believe this dangerous rollback attempt should be put on hold until the merger is completed and Vistra publicly states whether it, too, wants to double air pollution from these coal plants.

Please join us in asking the IPCB to protect us all and prevent coal power plants from doubling the pollution they put in the air we breathe.



Governor Rauner’s EPA is poised to eliminate air pollution safeguards that would allow THOUSANDS MORE TONS of air pollution into the air you breathe every year.

According to today’s Chicago Tribune, Illinois EPA and the state’s largest polluter, Dynegy. Inc. have been rewriting Illinois air pollution laws in secret since last year, and are now poised to propose a massive increase in how much pollution Dynegy’s EIGHT huge ancient coal power plants in Illinois would be able to emit.


As much as 10,000 TONS more smog and soot pollution than they are emitting now.


As early as NEXT YEAR.


The most likely reason is that Dynegy wants to run its cleanest coal plants – the ones equipped with modern pollution scrubbing equipment – LESS often, and wants to run its dirtiest most polluting coal power plants MORE. They could make more money by running their cheaper dirtier power plants, but YOU will wind up paying the price.

Whatever rollbacks the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Dynegy are able to force through will eventually have to get approval from state legislators before Dynegy would be allowed to run its dirtiest coal power plants more oftern – so YOUR legislators can help stop this attack on clean air.

You can take action! RHA has prepared an email that encourages legislators not to approve these rollbacks. Our e-advocacy system makes it easy for you to send the email directly to Governor Rauner and your legislators. Send your emails now.

For more information about RHA’s clean air initiatives, contact Brian Urbaszewski via email at burbaszewski@resphealth.org or by phone at (312) 628-0245.