Farm dust or fairy dust? That was the question before a Congressional panel this week that approved a bill to suspend any EPA tightening of dust standards on farms for one year. The House Energy and Commerce Committee easily passed the bill on a 33 to 16 vote - but not before a lively debate on the wisdom of tying EPA’s hands in enforcing the Clean Air Act.
Democrats tried unsuccessfully to limit the scope of the measure to non-industrial sources - or even neutralize it if EPA scientists find rural or nuisance dust harms health.
Michigan’s John Dingell charged the GOP with attacking a myth - that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has billed “fairy dust” - since she’s dropped any plans to tighten EPA’s dust standard:
“It’s a myth! The EPA reinforced that fact in a recent letter to two US Senators. Here we have a vast tempest in a teapot where we’re attacking a problem that does not exist. Where we’re beating a straw man and wasting the time of the congress and the committee on doing things about a problem which does not exist.”
Energy and Power Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield of Kentucky disagreed:
“It doesn’t make any difference what Administrator Jackson says, we know that groups are prepared to file lawsuits to require this ambient air quality particulate matter standard to be changed. For example, Wild Earth Guardians is considering suing EPA over this very matter.”
Nebraska Republican Lee Terry argued EPA is just one lawsuit away from being forced to regulate farm dust. And from John Shimkus of Illinois:
“I come from rural America, I visit community health clinics, I visited all my hospitals, I visit with all my docs, not once in my 15 years has any health care professional in my rural district ever complained about rural dust. Never. Ever.”
The anti-dust rule bill - like many other GOP bills targeted at government regulation - is expected to easily pass in the House. But the measure faces a bigger hurdle in the Senate - where Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Chuck Grassley of Iowa continue to push a similar stand-alone bill.