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Federal EPA has proposed new limits for soot pollution, but some want the rules to be stricter

Keith Srakocic

On today’s episode of The Confluence: 

EPA has proposed new limits for a soot-like air pollutant but advocates argue it’s not enough
(0:00 - 7:42)

Last week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to reduce the limits of PM2.5, a fine particulate matter like soot, in air pollution.

The current standard was established in 2012 and remained in place under the Trump administration. Over the years, the science on air pollution has changed and health experts argue the limits should be even stricter.

Kristina Marusic, who covers environmental health and justice issues in Western Pennsylvania for Environmental Health News, says that even small reductions in limits will have significant impact.

“Even really slight reductions in this kind of pollution [are] linked to fewer hospital visits for things like asthma and heart disease, fewer premature deaths and significant public health savings,” says Marusic. “According to the EPA, their proposed revisions could save as much as $43 billion in public health costs by 2032 if the annual limit was lowered to nine micrograms per cubic meter.”

Marusic says that the EPA will hold public hearings for people to weigh in over the next two months and a final decision will be made in 2024.

Matthew Mehaffey, music director for The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh is stepping down
(7:51 - 17:07)

For seven seasons, Matthew Mehaffey has been the music director for The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, a 130-member choir of everyday community members. This season will be his last, as he’s stepping down later this year.

During his time with the choir, he engaged audiences and singers with performances such as the re-telling of Anne Frank in “Annelie” and Underground Railroad in “Let My People Go.” 

“It's a blessing to have people from all across the region, all different walks of life, an incredible diversity of experiences come together to make music together,” says Mehaffey.

One performance that stood out for the music director was a performance at Mr. Smalls Theater when the choir teamed up with composer Steven Hackman to perform “The Times They Are A-Changin': The Words and Music of Bob Dylan.”

“It was really a transformational moment, I think, for the choir, because we felt like we had groupies at that concert because the energy around the concert built and built day after day and we had several sold out performances,” says Mehaffey.

Mehaffey is planning to assume the position of Director of Choral Activities at the University of Minnesota after leaving The Mendelssohn Choir.

National Negro Opera Company founder Mary Cardwell Dawson made her home in Pittsburgh
(17:20 - 22:30)

Although Mary Cardwell Dawson established guilds for the National Negro Opera Company in multiple cities, including Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New York City, her musical legacy and activism has a permanent home in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood. 90.5 WESA’s India Krug has more.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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