The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, H.R. 1633, was the subject of a hearing held Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Representative Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. The bill, introduced by Representatives Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, addresses the threat of increased federal regulation of dust by preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing more stringent federal dust standards. It also exempts nuisance dust from EPA regulation where dust is already regulated under state, tribal, or local law.
The committee approved the legislation which its supporters say will provide much-needed certainty and regulatory relief to America's farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses. The vote of 12 to 9 was enough to pass it along to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration. The measure is expected to easily pass in full committee and in the House - but faces a bigger hurdle in the Democrat-controlled Senate where Senators Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, continue to push a similar stand-alone bill. According to Grassley's office the Senate measure to suspend EPA power to tighten dust rules on farms was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The effort to stop EPA regulation of farm dust has continued despite EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson dropping plans to tighten the dust standard on farms. Former Subcommittee Chair Joe Barton, R-Texas, doesn't believe that eliminated the need for Noem's legislation.
"Maybe we can be accused of putting a belt and suspenders to keep our pants up in this piece of legislation," Barton said. "It certainly won't hurt anything, it is common sense and we should pass it. I want a strong EPA believe it or not, but I want them to focus on stuff that really is harmful to health."
Whitfield pointed out that even under the current standard, there is extensive regulation of rural dust, and EPA has been considering a range of more stringent alternatives. Whitfield says this bill provides needed certainty that the agricultural sector and rural America will not be burdened with costly new EPA dust regulations.