The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its policy assessment for review of the particulate matter National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Agency staff determined EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson would be justified either in maintaining the current fugitive dust standard or tightening it to a level twice as stringent. 

National Cattlemen's Beef Asociation (NCBA) Chief Environmental Counsel Tamara Thies said this is an important decision in the regulatory process. While the final policy assessment suggests the two standards essentially are equivalent in terms of protecting public health, the effect of Jackson choosing the stricter threshold could have a substantial negative impact on rural America. A recent study commissioned by NCBA found changes in dust standards being considered by EPA could bring vast areas of the Midwest, southwest and western U.S. into or very near non-attainment.

“Dust is a part of life in rural America,” said Thies. “Finalizing a rule that would result in heavy fines for creating dust by simply driving down a dirt road or herding cattle is unacceptable.”

EPA’s Jackson recently complained about “myths and misconceptions” regarding her intentions on the issue. She claims EPA is not working against agriculture, but Thies said Jackson needs to prove it.

“NCBA urges her to put all our minds at ease by declaring unequivocally that EPA’s actions will not result in a more restrictive regulation of dust in rural America,” said Thies. “Because not tightening the standard is not required by science, this is the administrator’s opportunity to reduce the mounting pile of burdensome and unnecessary regulations on agriculture.”

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