July 13, 2022

Duckworth Introduces Bill to Strengthen Nationwide Air Monitoring and Protect Public Health


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), co-founder and co-chair of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus, introduced the Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022 to strengthen our national air monitoring system to help provide clean air for all. This legislation would direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update and increase our air monitoring equipment, improve data collection and sharing and implement fenceline monitoring for toxic air pollutants at facilities contributing to high local cancer rates and other health threats from dangerous pollutants. During today’s U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works’(EPW) Committee hearing to examine several pieces of air monitoring legislation, Duckworth advocated for the swift passage of this new legislation. Watch Duckworth’s opening remarks here. Duckworth is also Chair of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works’ (EPW) Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Subcommittee.

 “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 Duckworth. “Today, I’m proud to introduce the Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022 alongside Congresswoman Blunt Rochester to help address generational air pollution and strengthen our national air monitoring system, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to shine a light on these issues during today’s EPW hearing. Every American in every community deserves to breathe safe air—no matter their skin color, zip code or the size of their wallet.”

Today, U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced companion legislation in the House. Duckworth and Blunt Rochester’s legislation is cosponsored by EPW Chairman and U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) as well as U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). In the House, this legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Donald McEachin (D-VA), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Kathy Castor (D-FL).

The Public Health Air Quality Act of 2022 would:

  • Direct the EPA to implement immediate fenceline monitoring for toxic air pollutants at facilities contributing to high local cancer and other health threats from dangerous pollutants like ethylene oxide, chloroprene, and formaldehyde. 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 where needed to assure compliance or protect public health, using more protective monitoring methods. 
  • Ensure 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. It also ensures 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.

 Duckworth has been committed to helping ensure more Americans have safer air and water in their communities. In March, several of her key environmental priorities became law in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Omnibus appropriations package, including cleaning up hazardous waste sites and tackling contaminated properties by investing in the EPA’s Superfund program and brownfield grants and addressing the disproportionate impacts of pollution on communities of color and low-income communities by expanding funding for environmental justice programs at EPA.

Last year, President Biden signed the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal into law that included Duckworth’s entire Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA), which would help rebuild our nation’s crumbling and dangerous water infrastructure. As a result of her leadership, Illinois—which contains the most known lead service lines of any state in the nation—will be able to dramatically accelerate projects to remove dangerous lead pipes and protect countless children against permanent, irreversible brain damage from drinking lead-contaminated water.

Last March, Duckworth introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act, comprehensive legislation to achieve health equity and climate justice for all, particularly the cumulative impacts on underserved communities and communities of color that have long been disproportionately harmed by environmental injustices and toxic pollutants.