The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today approved bipartisan legislation to provide much-needed certainty and regulatory relief to America's farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses. H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, passed the panel by a vote of 12-9 and now moves to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.
H.R. 1633, introduced by Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Leonard Boswell (D-IA), addresses the threat of increased federal regulation of dust by preventing EPA 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 bill passed with an amendment introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) clarifying the definition of nuisance dust to underscore that the bill does not exempt particulate matter generated from combustion, such as as from industrial facilities and power plants.
While EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has announced the agency's intent to propose retaining the current dust standards, uncertainty still remains. Without this legislation, EPA's standard could change during the rulemaking process or as the result of legal challenges. In fact, EPA made changes to its original dust standard proposals in 1996 and 2006 during the review process.
Because EPA staff recommended consideration of a more stringent standard, rural Americans remain concerned that the standards could change and believe this legislation is necessary to protect the rural economy. Farmers and ranchers are already subject to a number of costly EPA dust regulations. Over 125 stakeholders have voiced support for the legislation which they say would "bring some much needed certainty to agriculture and other rural resource-based industries during these current perilous economic and regulatory times."
"Even under the current standard, there is extensive regulation of rural dust, and EPA has been considering a range of more stringent alternatives. We applaud Administrator Jackson's recent statement that she has decided she will propose a rule that retains the existing standard that covers farm dust. But there are many reasons why this falls short of providing certainty for farmers and ranchers," said Whitfield. "This bill provides needed certainty that the agricultural sector and rural America will not be burdened with costly new EPA dust regulations."
"Like virtually everything we have done this year, this bill is about jobs. It's about regulatory certainty and relief. It's about making government work for America, so that Americans can get back to work," said Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
"Today's vote is a huge win for farmers and ranchers who are concerned about regulatory certainty. Anyone who has driven a combine through a field knows that dust is a part of rural living. It is hard to think of something more symbolic of Washington's regulatory overreach than the potential punishment of farmers and livestock producers for kicking up dust," said Noem.
Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA), an original sponsor of the legislation, welcomed today's vote by stating, "At a time when our economy is struggling to recover, we simply cannot afford to continue to perpetuate unnecessary regulations and uncertainty for farmers and small businesses in our rural communities. I look forward to the full committee's consideration of this important jobs legislation."