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EPA releases air rule with no change to farm dust

The Environmental Protection Agency late Friday released updated national air quality standards that made no changes to farm dust rules, leaving the existing daily standard for fine particles or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10), which includes dust from farms and other sources.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has noted that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said earlier this year that the regulation would not affect farm dust, and who has complained that Republicans continued to make it an issue, said in a statement that he was pleased, while Republicans continued to say it was still an issue.

“EPA's final decision today on national clean air standards will have no impact on farm dust from agricultural operations, as they have indicated for more than a year,” Vilsack said.

“This commonsense approach will result in cleaner air for the American people, while providing greater certainty for those who live and work in rural America,” he said. “I commend EPA Administrator Jackson for her efforts to reach out to the agricultural community and to make it clear that EPA had no interest in regulating farm dust.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he was pleased by ruling, but also noted that he had co-sponsored the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act to prevent the EPA from imposing more stringent dust standards for one year. It would also allow states and localities the flexibility to address any rural dust issues before the federal government would have the authority to do so.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., also said he was pleased, but noted he had introduced legislation to permanently prevent the agency from regulating farm dust.

“Despite EPA having taken more than a year, I’m glad ag producers finally have it in writing that an absurd agency recommendation to double-down on farm dust has been rejected,” Johanns said.

EPA, however, had no choice but to consider the revision. It had to follow a federal rule-making process because it was under court order to update its standards due to a case brought by the American Lung Association along with the National Parks Conservation Association.

EPA finalized an update to its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5), including soot, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. By 2020, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet revised health standard without any additional actions, the agency said.

The National Association of Manufacturers said the new standard will put undue burdens on manufacturers, but the Sierra Club called the new standards “crucial, life-saving protections,” according to a report by the Environmental News Service.