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Noem Kicking Up Congressional Dust
Oct 19, 2011
Congresswoman Kristi Noem has made blocking dust regulations a centerpiece of her legislative agenda this year. Rep. Noem has proposed H.R. 1633, a bill that would exempt nuisance dust from the Clean Air Act. This bill responds to concerns that the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to hamstring farmers and ranchers by lowering the amount of dust they can stir up from their fields, pastures, and gravel roads. The bill also responds to the normal conservative urge to root out regulations that get in the way of business, profits, and the general ability to do whatever the heck we please.
If you live by a gravel road or a farm field, you understand that dust is a part of rural life. Farmers don't want to kick up any more dust from their fields than they have to, since that dust is also their topsoil, their livelihood. But agriculture is dusty work. You can't wait for a gentle rain to settle the dust every time to want to haul another load of corn to town.
Nonetheless, dust can cause problems. Dust can cause asthma, bronchitis, and heart attacks. Recent research found that erionite in the gravel used on some North Dakota roads contributes to an increased risk of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. (South Dakota is one of several states with erionite deposits.)
Nobody who eats wants to put farmers out of business. Nobody who breathes wants to live in a cloud of dust. Fortunately, the EPA seeks neither extreme. Just last Friday, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said her agency is not going to tighten standards on nuisance dust. Her scientists and other data tell her that current dust standards strike the right balance between agribusiness and public health.
The problem is that Jackson, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, and others have been saying that for months. The tightened dust regulations that worry Rep. Noem so are a myth. Yet when told there is no problem Rep. Noem insists that there is a problem. She continues to argue that Congress should pass her bill to stop the EPA from doing what it is not doing.
I understand the conservative need to portray regulations and regulators as bad. But there are plenty of existing regulations to study and improve without kicking up dust over rules that don't exist.
Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and is currently teaching French at Spearfish High School. A longtime country dweller, Cory is enjoying "urban" living with his family in Spearfish.