August 6, 2010

EPA calls Senators 'agricultural alarmists' on dust regs

You can't be on a farm – or any rural area – for too long without seeing a bit of dust. It's just the way it is. From school buses driving down gravel roads to combines harvesting corn to moving livestock to a strong gust of wind.

To some, though, dust is nothing but coarse particulate matter – and particulate matter is a bad thing in the eyes if the Environmental Protection Agency. Certainly EPA is right in some cases - and says that its initiative to curb dust is aimed mostly at urban areas not rural activities.

EPA's dust assessment and policy document, however, caught the eye of a group of Senators who fired off a letter to EPA asking it to back off any plans to regulate dust at levels twice as stringent as the current standard. It's also caught the eye of some farm groups.

"Marketing our grain, driving up and down our gravel or unimproved roads causes a lot of dust," farmer John Greer told KHAS-TV (video below). As for dust regulations, Greer said: "We do not know how it is going to affect us but we are afraid it will affect us big time."

Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, one of 21 Senators who sent the letter to EPA, said: "You could go to just about anywhere in the state and we would either be bumping into that or actually over it and then you have all kinds of challenges in terms of how do you mitigate dust when you are out in the field and that sort of thing." (For a link to the letter, click here.)

Kris Lancaster, EPA Region 7 spokesman, however, said new rural regulations aren't part of the plan. In an audio interview, he told the reporter: "Contrary to blatantly false drum beat by agricultural alarmists, EPA does not have any plans to focus on regulating dust from farm fields or gravel roads."

"Agricultural alarmists"? "Blatantly false"? Really?

Johanns wondered if that were true why put agricultural regulations in the proposed assessment policy – which is the first step along the pathway to regulation? "Why do they do these wacky things and then claim that we are the ones being alarmists? These folks drive me nuts," Johanns told KHAS-TV.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley wrote an editorial on the subject, which you can read here.

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