NAWG joined a coalition of more than 70 groups this week expressing strong support for a bill that would exempt rural “nuisance dust” already regulated by states and localities from regulation under the Clean Air Act.
The legislation, H.R. 1633, or the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011, has been offered by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) in response to reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering regulating a certain type of dust as much as twice as strictly.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for coarse particulate matter (PM) every five years. In 2006, EPA set that standard at 150 micrograms per cubic meter based on a precautionary viewpoint because science at the time was inconclusive about coarse PM’s health effects.
EPA has been reviewing the standard for coarse PM, which is essentially dust kicked up by cars or machinery on roads or during field work, for more than a year.
A policy assessment that should form the basis of the ultimate decision makes two recommendations to Administrator Lisa Jackson: 1) maintain the current standard because of remaining uncertainties in the science behind the regulation or 2) revise down the standard to between 65-85 micrograms per cubic meter, regardless of the uncertainties.
The second option would effectively make coarse dust standards under the Clean Air Act twice as strict — and would likely put much of rural America either into a state of “non-attainment” or at risk for non-attainment depending on weather conditions.
Since beginning the review, various Administration officials have said concerns about additional dust regulation are unfounded, though EPA has not yet announced its decision or a timeline for its decision.
In a letter sent this week to leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee, the groups described the potential negative consequences of further regulation.
“As you are aware, farming and other resource-based industries are dusty professions. From tilling fields, to driving on dirt roads, to extracting resources, rural Americans deal with dust every day. Working in the soil is where they derive their livelihoods, and where the world derives much of its food and other essential resources,” they wrote.
“If the EPA were to revise the dust standard to 65-85 µg/m³, states would be put in a position of having to impose regulatory restraints on rural operations, increasing the cost of production when that cost is already at historically high levels. And, for what purpose? Scientific studies have never shown rural dust to be a health concern at ambient levels.”
The groups called H.R. 1633 “common sense” legislation that would exempt nuisance dust from Clean Air Act regulations if states and localities regulate it on their own.
In areas where there is no local regulation, the bill would allow the Administrator to impose regulations under the Clean Air Act, but only if scientific studies show that there is a significant health effect from coarse PM in that area and that the cost of the regulation would not outweigh its benefits.
For more on the coarse PM issue and to read the agriculture groups’ letter, please visit www.wheatworld.org/environmentalregulation.