WASHINGTON – Dust regulations for farmers aren’t going to change, the Environmental Protection Agency assured Congress recently. That’s not enough for House Republicans; they want a law.
The EPA was considering tighter regulations on dust, or “coarse particulate matter,” during a regulatory review earlier this year. But no changes were made and agency Administrator Linda Jackson wrote in a letter to a senator that she will not recommend a change in the current standards.
Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane said she’s afraid of potential future changes. “I believe that farmers and ranchers in Eastern Washington need more certainty,” she said.
She and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, are among 112 co-sponsors of the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, which had a hearing Tuesday before the Energy and Power Subcommittee, of which she’s a member.
Current standards regulate typical farm dust particles 10 microns or smaller – about one-seventh the diameter of a human hair – to concentrations of 150 micrograms per cubic meter a day. Particles 2.5 microns or smaller are limited to 35 micrograms per cubic meter a day.
If passed, the proposal would prevent changes to air-quality standards for one year. It would also define nuisance dust as that “generated from natural sources, unpaved roads, agricultural activities, earth moving, or other activities typically conducted in rural areas.”
The regulation of nuisance dust would be shifted to state or local government unless public health standards were not being met. The EPA could then take control after doing a cost-benefit analysis.
The EPA objected to the term nuisance dust because it is not a scientific term. Democrats on the subcommittee also said the phrase “activities typically conducted in rural areas” could be interpreted to include power plants and mines.
EPA spokeswoman Regina McCarthy said the agency is willing to work with the committee.
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