EPA retains dust standard
WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Dec. 14 that it would retain the coarse particulate matter National Ambient Air Quality Standard, eliciting a positive response from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on behalf of cattle producers across the country.
The cattlemen’s association is pleased that the EPA “has decided to retain the current coarse particulate matter standard and did not make a bad situation worse,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley McDonald. “Unfortunately, cattle producers did not get the permanent certainty they were seeking in the form of legislation and will again face a review of this standard within five years. But for today, NCBA [National Cattlemen’s Beef Association] is relieved that EPA listened to rural America and realized that further tightening the dust standard would have disastrous effects on America’s agricultural economy.”
The coarse particulate matter standard, commonly known as the dust standard, remains one of the most important environmental issues facing cattle producers. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to review the dust standard every five years to evaluate its protection of public health. Despite the lack of any scientific evidence finding any harm to human health from rural dust at ambient levels, agricultural operations in arid parts of the country have a difficult time attaining compliance with the dust standard at its current level, and must implement costly practices in order to mitigate dust.
Under the current review of the dust standard, EPA proposed in June of this year to retain the coarse particulate matter standard, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, state cattlemen’s associations, and members submitted comments encouraging the EPA to make that proposal final. McDonald made it clear that if the particulate matter standard had been tightened, it would have been virtually impossible for current agricultural operations to demonstrate compliance, subjecting them to fines under the Clean Air Act of up to $37,500 per day.
“A stricter PM [particulate matter] standard would have an impact that would cause most of cattle country, including the entire Midwest, West, and Southwest, to be out of compliance or at the brink,” McDonald said. “For now, 15 mile--per-hour speed limits on dirt roads, paving dirt and gravel roads, and a prohibition on harvesting or tilling during the day are not regulatory requirements in most states, but could easily become a reality if EPA continues to regulate farm dust.”
McDonald added that until legislation is passed by Congress giving cattle producers permanent relief from dust regulations, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association will continue to fight EPA’s dust standard.