Farm Dust Bill Approved in House

DC Dialogue

Legislating limiting EPA’s ability to regulate farm dust now heads to uphill battle in the Senate.

Published on: December 9, 2011

The House approved Thursday the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011 (H.R. 1633), a legislative fix that prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating farm dust that is already regulated at the state or local level. The bill passed easily, with a bipartisan vote of 268-150.

Earlier this fall EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency does not intend to change the current standards, however, EPA retains the authority to do so.

 House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said, “H.R. 1633 is simply saying, Lisa Jackson, you told us as EPA director you will not add additional dust regulations. By statute, we’re going to guarantee that you will not add additional dust regulations for the next year.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon said the legislation recognizes that dust from agricultural activities has never been shown to have an adverse health impact at ambient levels. H.R. 1633 first gives states and localities the authority in regulating dust by preventing the federal standard from applying where states or localities already have dust measures in place. In places where there is no state or local control, the bill also would exempt farm dust from the Clean Air Act unless the EPA administrator can prove it is a significant health problem and that applying the standard is worth the costs.

The legislation now moves to the Senate, where it was introduced by Senators Mike Johanns, R- Neb. and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and has support from 26 bipartisan senators.   

NCBA president Bill Donald recognized the Senate approval will be more difficult.

“What we have found is when we need a solution to a problem; we simply find a bigger hammer. Rallying together and working directly with members of Congress allowed us to swing a bigger hammer and score a victory for the entire industry today but our efforts cannot stop now,” said Donald. “The Senate will be a challenge. However, we are confident if agriculture continues to work together, we can expect this legislation to end up on the president’s desk.”

Ahead of the vote, a statement from President Barack Obama’s office said if H.R. 1633 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill.

In its Statement of Administration Policy, the administration said the bill would create “serious problems” for implementing the Clean Air Act and goes “far beyond” its stated intent of prohibiting the EPA from tightening national standards for coarse particles, which the Administration has “repeatedly explained that it has no intention of doing.”

“This ambiguously written bill would create high levels of regulatory uncertainty regarding emission control requirements that have been in place for years.  Specifically, the bill's exclusion from the entire CAA of a new class of air pollutants called ‘nuisance dust’ (an imprecise and scientifically-undefined term) could be used to roll back existing public health protection limiting pollution from mining operations, industrial activities, and possibly other sources.  The bill also raises serious issues about whether EPA could continue to implement the existing health-based fine and coarse particle programs, which play a vital, ongoing role in preventing adverse health effects of air pollution including premature deaths, childhood asthma attacks and other respiratory problems,” the policy statement noted.