- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

Dust happens.

That’s according to Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, who says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has gone overboard on a regulation over dust. The Virginia Republican and others say the agency has set an impossible standard for the agriculture industry.

“I am deeply concerned and troubled by the direction the EPA is taking to regulate dust and coarse particulate matter,” Mr. Goodlatte told a subcommittee on conservation, credit, rural development and research hearing on pesticide programs.

“What we are talking about here is dust, and despite the best efforts of farmers to minimize the impact of their operations on the environment the reality is: dust happens,” Mr. Goodlatte said.

The EPA amended its national air quality monitoring requirements late last month, which re-creates a national network to monitor six common pollutants: level ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, lead and particle pollution or dust.

The rule addresses fine particles of 2.5 micrometers in diameter, and inhalable coarse particles of 10 micrometers. A micrometer is 1/1,000th of a millimeter, and there are 25,400 micrometers in an inch. The new rule limits the amount of such particles in a cubic meter of air to a cumulative 150 micrograms over an entire 24-hour period — the approximate concentration of one gram of a liquid (or 1/28 of an ounce) in 2 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association denounced the rule as “an impossible concept in naturally dusty and rural landscapes.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Finance Committee, has invited EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to visit his family’s farm during the fall harvest.

“This will give you the opportunity to see what America’s farmers are confronted with when harvesting. This visit will allow you to show me first hand how a farmer is to contain dust on their farm while combining,” Mr. Grassley said in a Sept. 26 letter.

“I think the administrator is certainly willing to do what he can to help the senator help him address the concerns of his agriculture constituency,” said John Scholl, Mr. Johnson’s agriculture adviser.

The EPA program was first set up in 1987 to improve air quality with 54 machine monitors in cities and rural areas; the new program adds 75 monitors.

Jessica Emond, EPA spokeswoman, said 20 of the new monitors will be placed in rural areas.

“We understand certainly that any time you deal with particulate matter, it’s a given that dust and dirt are an inherent part of operations,” Miss Emond said.

Tamara Thies, director of environmental issues for the cattlemen’s group, says this is the first time rules under the Clean Air Act have targeted “fugitive dust” in rural areas.

“When dealing with agriculture, you’re dealing with dust — crops are grown in dirt,” Miss Thies said.

“The science does not show there is a health effect from dust, but the EPA has chosen to regulate it anyway,” Miss Thies said.

The new rule says such ambient air monitoring systems play a critical role in the nation’s air quality management.

“Exposure to particle pollution is linked to a variety of significant health problems. Particle pollution also is the main cause of visibility impairment in the nation’s cities and national parks,” the rule said.

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