EPA Won't Change Its Dust Standards…For Now

EPA changes to the national air quality standards have farm groups breathing a sigh of relief, but the battle isn't over.

Published on: Jun 20, 2012

Proposed updates to the Environmental Protection Agency's national air quality standards don't include any changes for coarse particles, including dust generated by farming practices and unpaved roads, according to a statement by the agency Friday.

Both the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association are pleased to see the current standards remain unchanged, but both groups maintain that this situation isn't something to get used to.

"Although we're pleased with EPA's decision not to propose changes to its standards for coarse dust particles at this time, there's much more to this story," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "We remain concerned that the final rule EPA will publish later this year could look very different from the initial proposal."

Farm groups weigh in on EPA announcement regarding coarse particulate dust.
Farm groups weigh in on EPA announcement regarding coarse particulate dust.

NCBA Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley McDonald echoed Stallman's statements.

"We learned from the last two reviews of this standard that a final standard can look very different that the proposal. It is important to note that [the proposal is] not the final standard," McDonald said.

Changes in the dust standard first sparked controversy when EPA staff announced changes could be made to current regulations.

In response to dissatisfaction from the agricultural industry, Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) introduced the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, which proposes a temporary prohibition against revising air quality standards applicable to coarse particulate matter and limits regulation of the dust where it is already subject to local or state laws.

The legislation has been passed by the House, but the Senate version has not been voted on.

"The fact is, farmers and ranchers want and need certainty about this issue," McDonald said. "If EPA follows through and does not revise the dust standard, such an action would only provide us with certainty for five years and provides no relief to those producers who are spending more than $1,000 per day on dust control measures right now."

A final rule on the air quality standards is expected in December.