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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

3 mins ago - Health

FDA advisory panel endorses Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Cezary Kowalski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday recommended the authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days on the J&J vaccine, which was found to be 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID. An emergency use authorization would allow distribution to immediately begin, helping streamline and speed up the vaccine rollout across the U.S.

Exclusive: Law enforcement organizations back Biden pick for assistant AG

Vanita Gupta Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Local and federal law enforcement officials are backing Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, according to letters sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The Major County Sheriffs of America noted Gupta “emphasized that she does not support efforts to ‘defund the police'” and highlighted her desire to improve criminal justice through methods that include increased training for law enforcement officials.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.