Dust issue still up in the air

During her visit to Iowa this week, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson repeated an earlier statement that the EPA does not intend to regulate farm dust.

“Right now I would say folks have nothing to worry about—right now—with respect to dust,” she told reporters in a machine shed near Prairie City.

But many ag groups and some members of Congress remain unconvinced. 

The deputy environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Ashley Lyon, points to an EPA staff recommendation to double the current dust and soot standard.  Lyon says even if EPA’s real purpose is to go after urban soot, doubling the stringency of the standard would put much of rural America into non-attainment.

But Jackson says the Clean Air Act gives her the authority to treat rural areas differently from urban areas—and she says individual states would have the final say on how various industries are regulated.

“It allows states to look across whatever industries are there,” she says. “Rural Amercia is very different from the Northeast, where I was working before I came to Washington, D.C.  But that’s the beauty of the act—it does have flexibility in it—and the flexibility relies on state government, which is where it should be.”

Meanwhile, several House members have introduced a bill that would halt the current revision of the dust standard for one year.  It would exempt agricultural dust if state and local authorities have already implemented dust control measures.  And in areas where there are no state or local dust control measures, EPA would be required to prove substantial negative health effects and show the benefits of regulation outweigh the economic costs.

Jackson says she will rule on the matter by July.

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