If the Environmental Protection Agency has its way, that cloud of dust kicked up by the Lone Ranger’s faithful steed Silver probably would merit the famed lawman a stiff fine.
The EPA is in the process of toughening up its regulations on Course Particulate Matter, otherwise known as dust. The dust in question is commonly stirred up by cars and trucks traveling on unpaved roads in rural areas and farmers working the fields.
The EPA is plowing ahead with the regulations despite concerns from members of Congress and farmers that tougher standards on dust will harm farmers and ranchers and lead to higher food costs and job losses in rural America.
Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Va., has co-authored the bipartisan Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011 with Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., along with co-sponsors Reps. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, and Larry Kissell, D-N.C. The bill would prohibit the EPA “from burdening farmers and small business owners in rural America with additional dust regulations.”
“This bill is another step in our continued efforts to help spur job creation throughout Virginia’s 5th District,” Hurt said. “By putting an end to the EPA’s unnecessary dust regulations, our farmers and small businesses in rural areas across central and southside Virginia will gain the certainty and confidence necessary to focus on expanding their business and putting people back to work.”
The bill, which has received the endorsement of the American Farm Bureau, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Public Lands Council, would, among other things, prevent revision of the dust standard for one year and give states and localities flexibility to regulate dust.
“Regulation of farm dust by the EPA could severely hamper the ability of farmers in Virginia and across the nation, and has the potentially devastating effect of decreased productivity, increased food prices and lost jobs in the rural economy,” said the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Wilmer Stoneman. “In addition, there is no scientific basis for establishing such a regulation and we doubt that the benefits would outweigh the costs.”
The EPA’s review of dust is part of a five-year review of the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Particulate Matter. One form of regulated material is known as coarse PM, which is dust made up primarily of ground up dirt and other naturally occurring organic materials.
In rural areas, dust is as naturally occurring as dirt. Driving down unpaved roads creates dust, as do such essential activities as plowing, planting, and harvesting.
In addition to the legislation, members of Congress have written to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to express their concerns. The March letter, which more than 100 members of Congress signed, notes that, if “implemented, the proposed standards could subject farmers, livestock producers, and industry to burdensome regulations which could result in fines amounting to $37,500 a day for violations.”
The levels of allowable dust being considered are below naturally occurring levels in some states, “making it impossible to meet” and doubling the number of counties in violation, the letter says.
“There are no better stewards of the land than America’s agriculture community,” the members of Congress noted. “Given the difficulty and expensive process of mitigating dust in most settings, the revised standards could have a devastating impact on rural economies and greatly reduce our nation’s food security. If, as the agency has determined, rural fugitive dust has been found to be of less public health concern than dust in urban areas, there is no reason to adopt the revised standard.”
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