by Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) — The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday passed a bill to prevent EPA from regulating farm dust, sending the measure to the full House for a vote.
The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., has more than 100 co-sponsors and attempts to define what it calls “nuisance dust” that is subject to regulation at state and local levels.
EPA and members of Congress have disagreed about whether the agency has the authority to regulate — or already is regulating — farm dust or particulate matter. EPA officials have told lawmakers that National Ambient Air Quality standards are not aimed at agriculture or any one industry in particular. Still, Congress has continued on with the legislation.
If the bill becomes law, EPA would still have authority to regulate nuisance dust only if local governments are unable to do so effectively.
The act defines nuisance dust as that “generated from natural sources, unpaved roads, agricultural activities, earth moving, or other activities typically conducted in rural areas; or consisting primarily of soil, other natural or biological materials, windblown dust, or some combination thereof.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon said in a statement that the legislation is a step toward making regulatory agencies accountable.
“Allowing federal agencies to continue regulating farmers and ranchers to the point of no return is not something we will sit by and allow to happen,” she said. “We have to bring some accountability to regulatory agencies. They must be aware of the economic impact their actions are having on farm and ranch families throughout the country.”
During an October hearing in the House, Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for air and radiation at EPA, said the definition of farm dust in the act is too “broad” and would legally preclude EPA from enforcing particulate matter standards on polluters in rural areas including power plants, ethanol plants and other industrial operators.
The current particulate matter standard was put in place by the Reagan administration in 1987. Currently there are 41 counties in nonattainment areas, primarily in California and Arizona, where many farmers and ranchers are required to take actions to reduce dust from their operations.
The same bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and has support from 26 senators.
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Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp