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Articles by Molly Peterson, Dillon Bergin, Emily Zentner, and Andrew Witherspoon

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This story was originally published by the The California Newsroom, a collaboration of public radio stations, NPR, and CalMatters; the nonprofit newsroom MuckRock; and the Guardian. It is republished under a Creative Commons (BY-ND 4.0) license.

A legal loophole has allowed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strike pollution from clean air tallies in more than 70 counties, enabling local regulators to claim the air was cleaner than it really was for more than 21 million Americans.

Regulators have exploited a little-known provision in the Clean Air Act called the “exceptional events rule” to forgive pollution caused by “natural” or “uncontrollable” events – including wildfires – on records used by the EPA for regulatory decisions, a new investigation from The California Newsroom, MuckRock and the Guardian reveals.

In addition to obscuring the true health risks of pollution and swerving away from tighter control on local polluters, the rule threatens the potency of the Clean Air Act, experts argue, at a time when th... Read more