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Wheeler Highlights America's Environmental Progress

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Yesterday, Administrator Wheeler joined President Trump and members of his cabinet to address the progress America has made cleaning up and protecting our nation's environment. All six criteria air pollutants have been reduced, our nation's access to clean drinking water is ranked number one in the world, and under President Trump we have reached the highest number of Superfund deletions in a year since 2005. To read more about the incredible progress our nation is making on improving environmental outcomes see below. 

America is – and will remain— the gold standard for environmental protection

Every American should know that our nation is cleaner, safer, and stronger today thanks to the leadership of President Trump. Today, we have the cleanest air on record, and we are a global leader for access to clean drinking water. – EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler


We are helping areas across the nation reduce air pollution and meet the nation’s air quality standards. By doing so, many regions across the country are moving from non-attainment to attainment. This is allowing Americans to breathe easier and breathing new life into the local economy by alleviating a major regulatory burden. – EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler

  • The U.S. is a global leader in clean air progress, including for traditional “criteria” pollutants like particulate matter or ground-level ozone.
    • From 1970 to 2018, the combined emissions of the six criteria pollutants dropped by 74%, while the U.S. economy grew by 275%, Americans drove more miles and population and energy use increased.
      • Between 1990 and 2018, average concentrations of harmful air pollutants decreased considerably across our nation:
        • Ground-level ozone fell 21%
        • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) fell 89%
        • Nitrogen dioxide fell 57%
        • Carbon monoxide fell 74%
      • Between 2000 and 2018, fine particulate matter fell 39%
      • Between 2010 and 2018, lead emissions fell 82%
    • Emissions of all criteria pollutants dropped between 2016 and 2018.
      • In fact, lead and sulfur dioxide during this time frame dropped by double digits (lead concentrations are down over 12% and SO2 is down by 22%).
    • By EPA’s measures, pollutants and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in America are continuing to trend downward regardless of year to year variations. Minor year-to-year increases in GHG emissions or Air Quality Index “unhealthy” days are the result of meteorological conditions and wildfires.
  • Since 2007, releases of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals in the U.S. manufacturing sector have declined while the economy has grown. Industrial facilities have reduced releases of TRI chemicals by taking action to prevent pollution.
  • In 2017, air releases of chemicals declined by 11 million pounds, driven by reductions in air releases at chemical manufacturing facilities.
  • Since 2007, air releases of chemicals have decreased by 57%.
  • According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. has some of the lowest fine particulate matter levels in the world.
    • U.S. fine particulate matter levels are six times below the global average, seven times below Chinese levels, and well below France, Germany, Mexico, and Russia.
  • Much of this progress has taken places in low-income counties across the country. 
    • Based on the most recent monitoring data, more than 80% of low-income counties were in attainment with EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), compared to 43% in 2008. 
  • Additionally, here in the U.S., our energy is produced in ways consistent with environmental progress, leading to better air quality in energy-producing regions. We are a world leader in production of coal, oil and gas, and we export fuels and next generation technology to countries across the world.
    • From 2005 to 2017, total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 14%, while the U.S. became the number one energy producer in the world.
    • In contrast, global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by over 20% over that same time period.
    • Since 1990, U.S. natural gas production has roughly doubled, while methane emissions from natural gas production fell by over 16%.
    • From 1990 to 2018, annual emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) from coal-fired power plants fell by over 90% while emissions of (nitrogen oxides) NOx fell by over 80%.
    • Over past decade, mercury emissions from power plants have decreased by nearly 90%.
    • In 2018 alone, emissions of SO2 from power plants fell by 6% compared to 2017, while emissions of NOx fell by 4%.


We’re helping communities across the nation modernize outdated infrastructure and improve water quality. In doing so, we are providing more and more communities access to clean, safe drinking water, and modernizing waste water management. – EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler

  • In the early 1970s, more than 40% of our nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards. Today, 93% of community water systems meet all health-based standards, all the time. Much of this progress is due to the EPA’s partnership with state and local communities.
  • Since 2017, EPA has approved eight WIFIA loans totaling nearly $2 billion to help finance over $4 billion in water infrastructure projects and create up to 6,000 jobs. 
  • In addition to the WIFIA loans already closed, EPA has pending loans of approximately $5.5 billion to help finance nearly $11 billion in water infrastructure investments and create 172,000 jobs.
  • Throughout the history of EPA’s State Revolving Funds (SRFs) program, more than $170 billion in financial assistance has been provided to over 39,900 water quality infrastructure projects and 14,500 drinking water projects across the country.
  • Since 2017, 109 waterbodies have been fully or partially restored thanks to strong state, tribal, and territorial partnerships built through the EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 319 Program. The Program works to address pollution from non-point sources including urban stormwater runoff and agricultural activities.
  • Since 2017, EPA and its state partners awarded nearly $20 billion dollars for more than 4,500 clean water projects under the clean water and drinking water SRFs.


Pollution is on the decline. Our focus is to accelerate its decline, particularly in the most at risk communities. These are the communities most likely to live near hazardous sites or suffer from outdated infrastructure. These are the Americans that deserve our full and immediate attention. That is the lens through which President Trump shaped his agenda. And that is what we are accomplishing.  – EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler

  • Across the country, there are hundreds of sites where land has languished for decades and left toxic contamination seeping into land and water. Unlike past administrations, we will not abandon these areas or surrounding communities – we’re expediting clean-up and getting them back to productive use.
  • This Administration has prioritized cleaning up contaminated land through EPA’s Superfund Task Force. Over the past two years, this focus on expediting remediation and promoting revitalization of sites across the country.
    • Through EPA’s Superfund program, EPA deleted all or part of 22 sites from the National Priorities List (NPL) in FY 2018, the largest number of deletions in one year since FY 2005.
    • EPA is on track to delete even more Superfund sites from the NPL in FY 2019.
    • EPA has also utilized the Administrator’s Emphasis List to ensure timely, critical progress at over a dozen sites.
    • Accelerating cleanups at Superfund sites will directly improve the lives of those who reside near these sites – often low-income and minority Americans.
  • Throughout the history of EPA’s Brownfields program, which aims to clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties, local communities have been able to use grants to leverage 150,120 jobs and more than $28 billion of public and private funding.
    • A study of Brownfields sites found that property values of homes near revitalized Brownfields sites increased.
    • Earlier this year, EPA awarded over $64 million in new investments to 149 communities across the U.S. through the Brownfields program.
      • 108 of the selected communities have identified sites or targeted areas in census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones.
    • In June 2019, EPA announced $9.3 million in supplemental funding for 24 current successful Brownfields grantees. Out of those 24 grantees, 17 have Opportunity Zones located in their jurisdiction, accounting for $6.7 million in grant money.


We use our federal enforcement and compliance assurance resources to help reduce Clean Air Act nonattainment, water quality impairment, to promote cleanups, and to protect vulnerable populations –instead of weaponizing our enforcement program to shut down coal plants or curtail energy extraction. We focus our enforcement priorities on public health and the environment. – EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler

  • We are protection air quality by focusing on halting the sale of devices designed to defeat required vehicle emissions controls and will continue to be vigilant to prevent vehicle manufacturers from designing ways to cheat the controls on new vehicles.
    • We stopped the sale of over 1 million aftermarket defeat devices, including the September 2018 settlement with Derive Systems addressing the sale of over 360,000 aftermarket defeat devices. This is now an enforcement priority.
    • In FY 2018 we also prevented the illegal importation of 2,200 vehicles and engines that don’t meet our emission standards.  
  • We are ensuring clean and safe water by focusing on reducing the number of wastewater systems that are in significant noncompliance with their permits and the number of drinking water systems with health-based violations.
  • We are protecting vulnerable communities by focusing on hazardous waste treatment facilities to ensure they are not emitting dangerous pollutants and on those facilities that use extremely hazardous substances to ensure proper management.
  • In FY 2018, we increased our efforts to reduce exposure to lead through 140 federal enforcement actions. These include criminal cases.