On Tuesday, April 14, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced it would decline to impose stricter controls on particulate matter emissions, which are known to cause health problems and premature death. The current standard, enacted in 2012, limits the amount of fine soot particles in the air to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The pollutant has been linked to 45,000 deaths annually.

Janet McCabe, a professor of practice at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law and director of IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute, served in the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA from November 2009 through January 2017 and worked on the 2012 rule.

“Throughout its history, the EPA has followed a rigorous and transparent process to evaluate the science behind air pollution and health and to keep up with the advances in the scientific understanding of the impact of one on the other. There are serious concerns with the process this Administration has used for this review and its conclusion—at this point only preliminary—that the current standard is adequately protective.

“There is significant evidence in the record that the current standards do not protect all Americans’ health. One of the most important responsibilities the EPA Administrator has is to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which establish a national benchmark for healthy air for all Americans. Especially at a time when a virulent respiratory disease has brought the US, and most of the rest of the world, to a standstill, and when there is emerging evidence that adverse COVID-19 health outcomes seem to be worse in areas of high air pollution, the Administrator needs to make a final decision firmly grounded in the science.”

McCabe has also served as air director at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and she has held other environmental policy and management positions in that department and in Massachusetts.