Ag Groups Urge Governors to Speak out on EPA Dust Standards

July 23, 2010 Bookmark and Share

NAWG and agricultural organizations from around the country are asking their governors to mobilize against proposals the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has under consideration that may impose strict standards on rural dust with dire economic consequences.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to set National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for coarse particulate matter (PM) every five years. In 2006, EPA set that standard at 150µg/m³ based on the so-called “precautionary principle” because science at the time was inconclusive about the health effects of coarse PM, which is basically dust. EPA is currently in the process of reviewing the standard again.

On July 8, EPA released a health assessment of particulate matter, acknowledging that the science on coarse PM is so uncertain that it could not conduct a quantitative risk assessment. On the same day, the EPA released its second draft of its policy assessment including EPA staff conclusions regarding the adequacy of the current standard. That paper said that, despite the ambiguity in the evidence, the Administrator would be justified in either retaining the current standard or in revising it to be as much as twice as strict.

Agricultural groups are deeply concerned about this possibility because, if the standard is made stricter, rural coarse particulate matter – which is essentially dust kicked up by cars and trucks, moving cattle or field work – would be even more highly regulated, causing significant economic threat with basically no return.

More than 85 state and national agricultural organizations wrote the National Governor’s Association late last week to apprise its members of the situation and its possible effects to their state economies. The groups urged the governors to express their concerns to EPA.

“While the Clean Air Act does not allow EPA to consider economic consequences of any reduction in the NAAQS,” they said, “we believe that a letter from you and other governors from across the United States to EPA opposing any reduction in the PM10 standard because the health evidence does not support such a reduction (especially for rural coarse PM), and any reduction would have potentially devastating impacts on state economies would help EPA in its consideration of the PM10 NAAQS.”

The EPA’s advisory committee is set to meet to discuss the policy assessment again on July 26 and comments on the policy proposal are due on Aug. 16.

To get more information about the particulate matter issue and to read the agriculture groups’ letter, please visit