Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson said this week in letters to key Senators that the Obama Administration does not intend to pursue tighter regulations on coarse particulate matter (PM).
This announcement brings to an end more than a year of speculation about EPA’s intention on coarse PM, which includes dust kicked up by cars and trucks, moving cattle or field work.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for coarse PM every five years. In 2006, EPA set that standard at 150 micrograms per cubic meter based on a precautionary viewpoint because science at the time was inconclusive about coarse PM’s health effects.
During the latest review of this standard, a policy assessment had given Jackson the choice of retaining the current regulation or making it twice as strict, though the relevant science remains inconclusive.
In a letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jackson said this week that “[b]ased on my consideration of the scientific record, analysis provided by EPA scientists, and advice from the Clean Air Science Advisory Council, I am prepared to propose the retention – with no revision – of the current [coarse particulate matter] standard and form when it is sent to OMB for interagency review”.
Had the Administration opted to tighten the standard, much of rural America could have fallen into a state of “nonattainment”, which could have had drastic impacts on the ability of farmers to undertake the daily operations of their businesses.
In a statement, Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), said they had recently asked Jackson to provide “written assurance” on the issue and were happy to see her response.
“Dust is a fact of life in rural America, and imposing new dust regulations on farmers and rural communities would stifle the agriculture industry and hurt rural economies,” Klobuchar said. “I am pleased that the EPA has listened to our concerns and the concerns from across rural America and decided against imposing new burdensome regulations.”
“We raised this issue earlier in the year with the EPA Administrator and the Secretary of Agriculture, and I’m glad they listened to the serious concerns raised by the agriculture community about possible dust regulations,” Stabenow said. “I will continue working with farmers and the EPA to find common ground and common-sense solutions to these issues.”
On the House side, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), who has led legislative efforts to clarify the dust regulation issue, said that if EPA has “no intention” of tighter dust regulations, the Agency should voice support for her pending bill, H.R. 1633.
“EPA’s announcement does nothing to change the fact that they are still able to regulate farm dust,” Noem said in a statement. “EPA’s announcement to keep the current standard in place is welcome news but it does not give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need moving forward.”
Last week, NAWG joined a coalition of more than 70 groups in expressing support for the bill, which would restrict additional regulation of farm dust under the Clean Air Act in areas where states or localities are already regulating it.
More on NAWG’s work related to environmental regulation is available at www.wheatworld.org/environmentalregulation.