March 8, 2009

Regulating rural dust a dirty proposition

A recent court decision gives the Environmental Protection Agency the green light to regulate emissions of course particulate matter (PM) - dust - in rural areas.

Rural "dust" could include dust from a livestock operation, crops, gravel roads and more. Anyone who has ever lived in a rural area knows that dust gets kicked up from wind, school buses on a gravel road, cattle, combines and anything else that moves when it is dry.

The National Pork Producers Council was disappointed with the decision, as were a number of other ag groups who had sought an exemption for farmers.

NPPC noted that EPA had identified problems with coarse PM in urban areas (mostly from engines) but that it had failed to show any health effects associated with rural dust.

The concern is that the burden of proof now falls on farmers - that farmers will have to prove their operations are not harming the public or environment. That potentially opens up farmers to expensive lawsuits for dust that kicks up with every gust of wind.

"EPA issued the revised air-quality regulations despite acknowledging that it lacks any science to support imposing them on livestock production operations, and that apparently was okay with the court," said NPPC environment committee chairman Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minnesota.

For more on this from NPPC's viewpoint, click here.

Here is a good article from the Des Moines Register that was repeated in papers across the country.

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