Regulating Dust Will Hurt Job Creation
by Congresswoman Kristi Noem
I've spent a lot of time over the years checking cows and any cattleman can tell you there is a mental checklist you go through every time you do, especially this time of year. Do they have enough feed and water? Are any off their feed and are the calves all up and sucking? How are the fences?
One question most ranchers don’t spend a lot of time worrying about is, “how much dust am I creating?” But if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had its way that is exactly the question you could be worried about next.
The EPA is considering new, more stringent standards for regulating Coarse Particulate Matter (PM10), or “dust,” that would be devastating to rural America. Like so many of the new regulations coming out of the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., it seems as if this was thought up in a vacuum without much thought to its impact on the real world, especially in rural America.
As you well know, many activities essential to farming and agribusiness can involve kicking up some dust. The EPA is considering implementing regulations that could toughen the current standard and in turn push many areas in your states into or near “nonattainment”. This is unacceptable given the likelihood that once an area is designated as nonattainment, activities such as tilling soil, harvesting crops, moving livestock and driving down unpaved roads are likely to become regulated activities, subject to fines of $37,500 a day for violations.
Americans are demanding commonsense, responsible solutions to economic recovery that encourage innovation and job creation. EPA’s possible further regulation of dust is a big step in the wrong direction on that front. Revised dust standards are unnecessary, would stifle economic growth in rural areas, and would cause severe economic strain our farmers and ranchers.
Finally, EPA acknowledges that more stringent standards are not necessary to protect public health. In fact, EPA’s own assessment acknowledges scientific uncertainty in the justification to change the current standard. In contrast, making the standard more stringent would prevent job creation, raise input costs for farmers, and greatly slow economic development throughout rural America. The answer is clear: we must urge the EPA not to make rural America “collateral damage” in its efforts to control dust in urban America.
I introduced an amendment to halt the EPA’s actions earlier this year that passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. House as part of H.R.1 a bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. That bill has languished in the U.S. Senate so we are also introducing a stand-alone bill because we cannot let the EPA get away with this without a full debate.
Anyone who has driven a combine through a field knows that dust is a part of rural living. The possibility of the EPA fining farmers and livestock producers who practice good management through further regulation of dust would be excessive and detrimental to our nation’s vital agriculture industry. It is hard to think of something more emblematic of Washington’s regulatory overreach than the potential punishment of farmers and livestock producers for kicking up dust.
There is enough uncertainty for farming in rural America. It seems nearly every policy coming out of the Washington bureaucracy today will add more uncertainty to America’s farms, ranches and other small businesses. Whether it is instituting a cap and tax regime by regulatory action or adding new fines and paperwork burdens on small businesses through the new health care law, Washington seems to have no regard for what it takes to grow an enterprise or create a job in rural America. I know from my experience as a farmer and rancher as well as talking with many South Dakota small business entrepreneurs, adding another employee or expanding the business is the last thing on your mind when there is a tax or regulatory uncertainty looming out there on the horizon.
There is a lot of work to be done in Washington to help ensure new policies take small business job creation in to consideration. One important step we can take immediately is to make sure we do not need to add to the uncertainty with the threat of tougher EPA regulations on farm dust. Burdening rural America with greater regulations on dust is excessive and will hurt job creation.