Apr 14, 2020 - Energy & Environment

EPA declines to change air quality standards despite health risks

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed Tuesday to keep air quality standards for soot pollution unchanged from 2012.

Why it matters: This action has relevance to today's pandemic, according to Axios energy reporter Amy Harder. Scientists say soot air pollution exacerbates the effects of respiratory diseases, like the one caused by the coronavirus.

The big picture: Particulate matter — tiny bits of pollution that comesfrom a range of sources, including fuel combustion and indoor sources — is associated with acute cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

What they're saying:

“The U.S. has made incredible strides in reducing particulate matter concentrations across the nation. Based on review of the scientific literature and recommendation from our independent science advisors, we are proposing to retain existing PM standards which will ensure the continued protection of both public health and the environment.”
— EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler

But, but, but: The decision also goes against the advice of EPA air staffers, who found that the existing limits may be allowing thousands of premature deaths each year, E&E News reports.

One level deeper: The announcement regarding the standards, officially called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, comes just a week after Harvard released a study that found higher levels of the small particulate matter, known as PM2.5, were associated with higher rates of death from COVID-19.

Go deeper: The pandemic and pollution

Go deeper

Trump moves to accelerate infrastructure without weighing environmental costs

President Trump briefs reporters in the Rose Garden on June 1. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday allowing agencies to accelerate infrastructure projects that may have significant environmental impact without formally weighing those potential consequences or requesting public input, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The move is based on Trump identifying the coronavirus pandemic as an economic emergency, which waives the usual rules that federal agencies follow when reviewing projects like highways and energy infrastructure.

21 hours ago - Health

Medical journal retracts study that fueled hydroxychloroquine concerns

Photo: George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

The Lancet medical journal retracted a study on Thursday that found that coronavirus patients who took hydroxychloroquine had a higher mortality rate and increased heart problem than those who did nothing, stating that the authors were "unable to complete an independent audit of the data underpinning their analysis."

Why it matters: The results of the study, which claimed to have analyzed data from nearly 96,000 patients on six continents, led several governments to ban the use of the anti-malarial drug for coronavirus patients due to safety concerns.

The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut

Adam Hansmann (left) and Alex Mather (right), co-founders of The Athletic. Photo: Steph Gray, courtesy of The Athletic

The Athletic is laying off nearly 8% of staff, 46 people, according to an internal memo obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: It's the latest media company that's been been forced to take drastic measures to survive the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Like many sports media outlets, The Athletic has been particularly impacted by the loss of live sports.