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The White House
The White House has proposed investing $100 million on a new effort to monitor air quality in some of the country’s most contaminated areas. It was just a small part of President Joe Biden’s initial $1.5 trillion federal budget proposal for 2022, but it exemplifies the current administration’s attempts to fix environmental and social injustice legacies.
The Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency, whose budget Biden wants to increase by more than 21%, will finance the air quality program. There are not many specifics of how the program will function yet. But, in addition to monitoring air quality, it will be able to warn people in areas with some of the worst emissions in the country using “real-time data.” According to the budget request, the program will “hold polluters accountable.”
The $100 million
The $100 million will be used to address some of the gaps in how air quality is now assessed. These disparities will make some communities more vulnerable to pollution than others, including low-income neighborhoods and people of color.
Researchers and regulators have historically found high-quality air quality sensors to be prohibitively costly to install widely. They can lack differences in emission levels from neighborhood to neighborhood because they are spread thin in certain areas. Pollution will thicken up to eight times as it travels from one block to the next.
Communities have been let down and when government air quality monitors operate. According to a Reuters investigation last year, these devices have previously struggled spectacularly. Even though 700,000 pounds of hazardous chemicals were emitted after a refinery erupted in Philadelphia in 2019, the federal air quality index registered clean air in the city that day. Since the nearest official air monitor was only supposed to take samples once every six days, it happened to skip the incident.
Fortunately, more affordable commercial air quality monitors have recently become available. This has enabled an increasing network of ordinary people to monitor air quality from the comfort of their own homes. Although these devices are not as responsive as official monitors, they have started to fill in the holes to map air emissions.
This has become especially useful when more intense fire seasons have chomped the climate around most Western United States. The EPA and US Forest Service used data from popular at-home air quality sensors in their fire and smoke map for the first time last year. Biden’s new proposal is defined as a “community” air quality monitoring and notification system, implying that it could complement existing attempts to combine citizen science and government data.
The White House’s $1.5 trillion budget plan
The White House’s $1.5 trillion budget plan involves allocation demands for discretionary expenditures, which account for around a third of the entire federal budget. The Biden administration intends to release a more detailed budget outline for 2022, which begins in October, later this month.