Oct 24, 2011
Gone, for now

It’s starting to seem that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is coming to their senses, which would be a big surprise. However, we all know that their recent actions are more than likely political posturing from the White House. Last week, EPA’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, announced that they will drop their proposed new standard for ambient air quality.

EPA was contemplating doubling the standards for dust and particulate matter in ambient air under the Clean Air Act. If they pushed forward with their new standards for dust levels, it would have been problematic for nearly everyone connected to agriculture and anyone who kicked up some dust driving down a dirt road.

Also, several weeks ago, EPA backed off their plans to increase the standards for ozone emissions. Somewhere, somehow, it seems that EPA may be starting to realize their ideals for clean air and water may be a bit unrealistic, and produce some very cumbersome and punitive regulations. I’m sure that President Obama has been listening to all the loud noise about regulations; it would be hard to avoid.

The dust issue was very threatening to agriculture and a strong coalition of agriculture groups has been working hard to disrupt EPA’s plans, and they have succeeded.

There are many more issues EPA is working on that could have a detrimental effect on agriculture, like the clean water act and wanting to control nearly all water sources.

Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft said it best: “No one likes to be regulated over something they cannot control. The proposed air standards would have insured that thousands of farmers and ranchers, as well as rural communities, would have been targeted by the EPA for non-compliance. Farmers and ranchers across the country have been vocal in their opposition to the EPA’s proposal and can celebrate the victory of common sense over needless regulation.”

Bill Donald, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said,“This is refreshing news. The consequences of EPA regulating farm dust at levels twice as stringent as the current standard would have undoubtedly forced many farmers and ranchers into noncompliance, which would have resulted in enormous fines that would have jeopardized the future of many farms and ranches. While we’re pleased with administrator Lisa Jackson’s decision to lean on common sense and science, this issue is far from resolved.”

In a letter from Jackson, she said that we have been making steady progress in reducing emissions of particulate matter, both fine and coarse, in this country for more than two decades, improving the public health of Americans while the economy continues to grow. Realizing the improvement, she said, “I am prepared to propose the retention of the current standards with no revision of the current PM10 standard.” EPA claims that they never targeted agriculture in their proposal.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-NE, introduced legislation to deal with farm dust prior to Jackson’s announcement. EPA wasn’t concerned about the source of the dust and never realized that dust created by every farming operation was unrealistic to control. Since Jackson’s announcement, it would appear that Johanns´ legislation isn’t going to see any light. Despite that, Johanns said that he wanted to establish absolute clarity in the law for farmers and ranchers.

EPA must review clean air standards every five years, which means this issue isn’t going to go away. Kristi Noem, R-SD, said EPA’s announcement does nothing to change the fact that the agency has the ability to regulate farm dust, and will pursue her bill. Johanns will support her bill, which was debated last Friday. Johanns called the EPA statement a “victory,” saying he would abandon his amendment to the Clean Air Act.

Everyone can take a breath of fresh air, at least for now, but must remember that much of what’s happening with EPA is a simple function of politics and the election cycle. EPA remains currently one of the most punitive federal agencies in this administration´s tool bag. I would expect that if Obama is re-elected, the EPA game will be back on. — PETE CROW