Following withering criticism from the agriculture sector, the EPA has reiterated it will not seek to expand regulations regarding dust on farms and ranches.
In letters to Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the EPA said it would not seek to impose “new controls on dust particles on farms and in rural communities."
Last week, the pair of senators requested that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson “provide written assurance that the EPA will not further regulate farm dust. The EPA is currently reviewing its National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter, including proposals to amend the standard.”
For months, the EPA’s potential regulation of dust has been a punching bag for ag-state legislators during hearings where EPA employees testified. The issue lingered despite repeated assurances from Jackson that no such regulations were being written.
During a contentious March House Agriculture Committee hearing, Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, committee chairman, said the EPA had initiated “action to stiffen the current regulatory standard on farm dust, which would make tilling a field, operating a feed lot or driving a farm vehicle nearly impossible.”
During the same hearing, Texas Rep. Michael Conaway said Texans worry that the EPA plans to oversee something natural and ubiquitous in the state. Conaway recounted a drive through pastureland in his home state. Wind was blowing 40 to 50 miles per hour and blown dirt – “excuse me ‘course particulate matter’” said Conaway, mockingly – was so thick he had to slow the car.
Jackson told the committee that the EPA had no plans to expand regulation of dust from farms. However, “let me be clear, the Clean Air Act passed by Congress mandates that the agency routinely review the science of various pollutants, including particulate matter, which is directly responsible for heart attacks and premature deaths. EPA’s independent science panel is currently reviewing that science, and at my direction EPA staff is conducting meetings to engage with and listen to farmers and ranchers well before we even propose any rule.”
On Monday, following arrival of the EPA letter, Klobuchar said, “Dust is a fact of life in rural America, and imposing new dust regulations on farmers and rural communities would stifle the agriculture industry and hurt rural economies. I am pleased that the EPA has listened to our concerns and the concerns from across rural America and decided against imposing new burdensome regulations.”
Stabenow said she was pleased the EPA and USDA “listened to the serious concerns raised by the agriculture community about possible dust regulations. I will continue working with farmers and the EPA to find common ground and common-sense solutions to these issues.”