The EPA advanced plans Wednesday to leave unchanged its existing standards for industrial soot, known as PM2.5, despite mounting evidence linking it to increased COVID-19 death rates. The agency sent a final draft rule to the White House for review the same day Harvard University scientists published their now-peer-reviewed study linking a slight increase in long-term soot exposure with an 11% jump in the death rate from COVID-19. The agency’s failure to address the new research, which attracted widespread attention when a preliminary version was released in April, could leave its decision to maintain PM2.5 limits at the status quo “extremely vulnerable” to both legal challenges and administrative reconsideration, according to George Allen, a former member of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. (E&E $)