The EPA notified Congress on Monday that it would not regulate the dust kicked up by grain combines and other farm operations in the Midwest. The agency said the notification should put “an end to the myth that the agency is planning to tighten” its regulations on that source of air pollution.
The farm dust issue has been a major theme in Republican claims that excessive environmental regulations are slowing the nation’s economy.
South Dakota GOP Rep. Kristi Noem introduced a bill that would ban the EPA from changing the dust limits for one year and plans to go forward with her legislation. “EPA’s announcement does nothing to change the fact that they are still able to regulate farm dust,” Noem said. “If the EPA has no intention of regulating farm dust, then they should support my legislation, which excludes farm dust managed at the state or local level from federal regulatory standards.”
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate but said Monday that he had no plans to pursue it based on the EPA statement. Johanns said the agency “has finally provided what I’ve been asking for all along: unequivocal assurance that it won’t attempt to regulate farm dust.”
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., and John Thune, R-S.D., are co-sponsors of his bill.
The Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, requires the EPA to evaluate its standards for dust and other forms of particulate matter every five years and to tighten them if necessary to protect public health. California’s heavily agricultural San Joaquin Valley and farming regions in Arizona have been in violation of the standards for years.
The Midwest is not close to reaching the current limits, but an EPA study said the agency would be justified in lowering them. The fear among farm groups was that the EPA would tighten the standards to a point that would require Midwest farms to take measures to limit the amount of dust they produce.
A letter on the issue that the EPA sent to Congress on Monday was intended as “further proof” that the Obama administration had no intention of tightening its limits on farm dust, the agency said in a statement.