If Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), has her way, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not be able to impose stricter regulations on dust generated by eastern Washington farms.
Dubbed the “Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011,” H.R. 1633 was introduced in the House by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD).
“At a time when America is suffering from the longest streak of high unemployment since the Great Depression, I cannot understand why this Administration, through the EPA, continues to support environmental regulations that have no scientifically-proven health benefits yet are guaranteed to destroy jobs,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers.
“The EPA’s PM10 standard is one of many examples of the federal government’s bureaucratic overreach and expanding that standard would be devastating to our farms and ranches. In Eastern Washington, whether you’re working the fields, herding cattle, or driving down a dirt road – dust will be kicked up – and that farm dust is a byproduct of American labor, not an air pollutant. That’s why I support the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, which would prevent the EPA from imposing unachievable standards on our rural communities.”
On March 16, 2011, Rep. McMorris Rodgers wrote a letter to EPA Director Lisa Jackson encouraging her not to expand course particle (PM10) regulations on farmers and ranchers. Jackson has reassured Congress there would be no tightening of the limits, but Republicans like Fred Upton (R-MI) say the EPA could change its mind.
“The very last thing our struggling economy needs is new costs and regulatory burdens on farmers and small businesses,” Upton said.
“EPA’s insistence that it does not plan to change the rule is far from a guarantee that such a change would never come to pass,” he added.
But Democrats claim there is no plan to regulate dust generated by farms.
“This isn’t just nonsense, it’s pure fantasy,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The Huffington Post added:
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) went further, saying that since the problem being addressed was fictional, perhaps the committee should also combat the spread of pixie dust.
“There is no plan to regulate farm dust anymore than there is to regulate fairy dust,” Markey said in his opening statement. “There is no attempt to accomplish that goal,” he said, comparing the proposed measure to a bill written in the 1990s to combat the phony problem spread in a then-rampant urban myth that the Post Office intended to tax email messages.
“This bill should be relegated to the dustbin of similar urgent urban legends,” Markey said, before demanding, tongue in cheek, that EPA assistant administrator Regina McCarthy forswear regulation of fairy dust.
But the National Federation of Independent Business disagrees, and wrote a letter to Senator Mike Johanns, thanking him for introducing S.1528, the Senate version of the bill:
Without clear evidence indicating a public health risk at current farm dust levels, the EPA is considering reducing dust standards to an unreasonable measurement. Many rural small businesses are having difficulty complying with the standard currently and, if the standards are lowered, their ability to survive and stay viable would be further threatened. More stringent standards would result in decreased productivity, increased food prices and lost jobs in the rural economy. In these difficult economic times, members of the small business community in rural areas need relief from onerous regulation, not additional costs and mandates.
Describing the bill in the Congressional record, Senator Johanns wrote:
Despite what the administrator is saying in farm country, EPA is still in the mist of their review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter or, put simply, “farm dust”. In rural America, farm dust is a fact of life. I grew up on a farm. It is dusty there. We kick it up while driving on unpaved roads or working in farm fields. Farm dust has long been considered to have no health concern at ambient levels. However, EPA is considering bringing down the hammer by ratcheting down that standard to a level that would be economically devastating for many in our rural areas. That defies common sense.
But many farmers are concerned with the EPA’s review of the Clean Air Act that stipulates, among other things, how much dust can be in the air.
The De Soto Explorer adds:
To be clear, the EPA hasn’t proposed any changes to the limits of coarse particulate matter that can be in the air. Right now the standard is set at 150 micrograms per cubic meter, which can’t be exceeded more than once a year over an average of three years. If it is exceeded, states have to submit an implementation plan that details what steps they will take to reduce the pollutants.
The Clean Air Act has been around for more than 40 years, and the 150 micrograms per cubic meter standard has been on the books since 1987. It’s a limit the state of Kansas has never exceeded. What has farmers and Roberts concerned is the EPA’s routine five-year review of the Clean Air Act standards.
The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent advisory board, recommended that the EPA revise its current coarse particulate matter standard to between 65 to 75 micrograms per cubic meter.
Allie Devine, vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association, said that level can be exceeded on an average windy day in Dodge City.
If passed, the bill would stop the EPA from imposing more stringent standards for one year and would also give state and municipalities the ability to regulate the issue before the federal government.
Additionally, the EPA would have to prove there were substantial health effects from dust and that those concerns outweighed economic ones.
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