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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1633, Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. POLIS. Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today in opposition to the rule and the underlying bill.

Today, there are very serious challenges facing our country, facing rural America, suburban America, and urban America. In the next 3 weeks, Congress has to address the payroll tax cut issue, or there will be an enormous tax increase, over $1,000 per family, to the American middle class. This Congress has to pass a budget or the government will shut down. This Congress has to address a number of other expiring tax provisions--all in the next 3 weeks.

This is real work to do, real work that needs to be done for the American middle class, the American people, for farmers, for businessmen and -women, and for workers.

And yet today, this body is not taking on real work. Instead, we're addressing an illusory problem, a fake problem rather than a real one. My colleague from Florida mentioned the specter of someone somehow regulating the dust kicked up by a truck on a dirt road. I don't think there's a single Member of this body that wants to regulate the dust that's kicked up by a truck on a dirt road. The EPA certainly doesn't. The farmers don't want us to. Members of Congress don't want us to.

So what are we exactly talking about? Instead of addressing the serious problems that are facing the Nation, we're talking about a bill that satisfies talking points, has a few unintended consequences, which I'll get into in my remarks, and ignores the real problems of today.

This bill before us claims to block the EPA from implementing a rule that doesn't even exist, hasn't even been thought up, and is opposed by the head of the EPA. That's right. We've got millions of unemployed Americans, a massive tax increase looming, and yet here we have a bill to stop the EPA from doing something it's not doing.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson just told Congress specifically that they have no intention of doing a rule in this area because the existing rules passed during the Reagan administration are adequate.

So instead of worrying about a non-existent farm dust rule, maybe we should pass a regulatory ban on blowing smoke, because that's exactly what Congress is doing with this bill here today.

Not only does this bill seek to address a non-existent problem, Madam Speaker, but it also has a number of unintended consequences. The new loopholes it creates in the mining and other sectors will have severe public health and environmental impacts. Now, there will be a number of amendments that have been allowed under this rule that will go into a discussion and tailoring of this bill to hopefully roll back some of these unintended consequences, but what this bill does, rather than solve a problem, is create a slew of new problems which we would need to address.

This bill is chock full of exemptions for major industries. It allows for more arsenic and lead pollution from industrial sources, with dire consequences for health and well-being. It disables the ambient air quality standards within the Air Quality Act. This bill won't help farmers at all because it won't fend off any onerous regulation because none of the regulations that are being contemplated are even being thought of by anybody in the EPA.

Interestingly, what this bill will do is it allows the release of more pollution from industrial sources like open-pit mining, coal-processing facilities, cement kilns and smelters. This has nothing to do with the family farms that you're going to hear people talk about debating this bill.

That's why this bill's main supporters are not farmers, but they're the mining industry. In fact, this bill has gained vocal support from the National Mining Association; and one of the biggest groups representing farmers, the National Farmers Union, has said this bill isn't necessary. In fact, in October, National Farmers Union president Roger Jackson said, ``The National Farmers Union is pleased to see EPA Administrator Jackson provide final clarification for Members of Congress and the agriculture community that the agency does not have plans to regulate farm dust.''

He went on, ``Lately, there has been considerable anxiety within the farming community that EPA is going to regulate dust on farms. We hope this action finally puts to rest the misinformation regarding dust regulation and eases the minds of farmers and ranchers across the country.''

Yet, instead of letting sleeping dogs lie and quelling the ridiculous rumors that somebody plans to regulate dust kicked up from cars on dirt roads, here we have Members of this body reinvigorating and giving credibility to these false rumors, scaring the hardworking farmers of America into thinking somehow government is about to regulate something that no one is purporting to regulate.

Furthermore, during committee consideration of this bill, an amendment by Congressman Butterfield would have explicitly limited this bill to agriculture, which is what the proponents of this bill purport it to be about. And yet the majority voted down that amendment, sending a clear message that this bill is not about farmers.

Let us see this bill for what it really is--another effort to attack the EPA and prevent the EPA from implementing the Clean Air Act under its commonsense rules to protect our public health.

It's time to get serious with the business of the House, to take on the real tasks that we have of expanding the payroll tax cut, passing a budget, and stop making up problems and making up solutions that cause more problems than they purport to solve. We've already got enough problems that this Congress and this country need to work on. Let's get to work.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. POLIS. I don't see how this bill would create any jobs, because it's purporting to undo regulations that don't exist and that aren't going to exist. So, obviously, if somebody at the EPA were to get the idea to start regulating farm dust, we would probably act to undo those regulations, which might help create jobs. Yet nobody is doing that, so this bill does absolutely nothing.

I would like to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Washington (Mr. McDermott).


Mr. POLIS. I yield myself such time as I may consume, Madam Speaker.

We get it and the American people get it. Just because you repeat something enough times doesn't make it true.

What businesses need in this country is long-term certainty and predictability, a fair playing field with clear rules for all. And yet here we are with a bill like this creating more uncertainty by introducing ambiguously drafted bills and new ambiguously drafted standards that skew the rules in favor of some and against others, making it tougher and tougher for small business, entrepreneurs, and innovators who don't have teams of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., monitoring every bit of legislation to get by and succeed.

The American people understand it wasn't the Environmental Protection Agency that caused this recession, that caused this economic mess we're in, and the economic recovery won't come through creating loopholes in public health laws.

If we are serious about helping farmers, there's plenty that we could be doing. But increasing industrial pollution for mining and coal processing isn't something that farmers in my district and across Colorado have asked me to do.

Farmers are concerned about many real-life challenges. Farmers are concerned that their kids can't get financing to go carry on the family business because the startup and liability costs are too high. Farmers are concerned about the estate tax.

Farmers are concerned about getting sued by Monsanto because their crops were contaminated by Roundup Ready pollen. Farmers are concerned about rapid swings in commodity prices because of instability in the market. Political brinksmanship and gridlock create market instability, and bills that create corporate handouts, loopholes, and more uncertainty like this one aren't helping farmers, they're hurting farmers, and they aren't helping the rest of the country either.

In addition to ignoring the needs of farmers, this bill ignores our national debt. In fact, it ignores our own House protocols to pay for things. Oddly enough, not regulating this nonexistent regulation isn't cheap. Because of the bureaucratic changes that would ensue from this bill, the nonpartisan CBO has scored this bill as costing the Federal Government $10 million. So this bill violates the Republican rule for discretionary authorizations.

In fact, while the majority has pledged to adhere to spending limits on all indirect spending bills by including offsetting language, this bill includes no offsetting language, which is particularly grating because this bill doesn't actually do anything besides create more Federal bureaucrats.

Madam Speaker, with only one committee hearing and a quick vote, this bill shouldn't be before us on the floor today. We have real work to do. We need a good-faith effort to get to the bottom of the real issues that affect this country and caused the recession, and help the middle class. This bill is not aimed at doing anything for farmers. It's not even aimed at a real problem.

I urge my colleagues to follow the House CutGo guidelines, to table this bill and focus on the real problems we should be working on. We all must stop pretending the answer to this country's problems is giving handouts and loopholes to those with the most lobbyists here in Washington, D.C.

As I mentioned earlier, Madam Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule.

I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment in the Record along with extraneous material immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.


Mr. POLIS. Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question so that we can do the right thing for working families and the millions of people looking for a job and vote on an unemployment extension and a payroll tax holiday and extension before we leave for next year, 3 more weeks.

I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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