Northern Colorado farmers pleased with EPA decision on dust regulations
Northern Colorado farmers admit most decisions made by the Environmental Protection Agency don’t usher in a sigh of relief for the agriculture industry.
However, this week was a different story.
The EPA announced Monday it will not revise its regulations on coarse particulate matter, providing clarity on the issue after months of conflicting reports that raised concerns among farmers and agriculture-state lawmakers who believed the EPA planned to tighten regulations on farm dust.
“It’s good news … to know for sure that we won’t have more EPA regulations to deal with,” said Marc Arnusch, a Keenesburg-area farmer. “I appreciate the EPA’s concerns for the environment, I really do. But farmers already do plenty on their own to combat wind erosion and other similar issues, and already have plenty of other EPA regulations to comply with.
“Any more would simply make operations difficult, if not impossible.”
In a news release from the Colorado Farm Bureau, the organization thanked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson “for her common sense decision to retain the current standards for dust regulation under the Clean Air Act.”
In recent months, U.S. representatives from both political parties pushed legislation to limit the ability of the EPA to regulate dust as a pollutant on farms and ranches. At the same time, though, EPA officials maintained there were no plans in place to tighten standards for farmers.
In August, Troy Bredenkamp, executive vice president for the Colorado Farm Bureau, appeared on Fox News to debate Janice Nolen of the American Lung Association, who is an appointee to the EPA’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee. As farmers had stated all along, Bredenkamp – representing the largest organization of farmers in Colorado – emphasized on the show that he believed the EPA was “still moving forward with revising dust regulations that would make the standard twice as stringent” as the current EPA regulations.
Nolen maintained that the agriculture industry was confused on the issue, noting that the EPA only intended to change the way it calculates air pollutants.
The EPA’s current dust standards, established in 1987, don’t require farmers to make any changes in their practices, although some states, such as Arizona and California, have their own regulations that require farmers to wet their soil or stop operations on dry and windy days.
Farmers worried that if EPA dust regulations tightened up, they would have to use more water – already scarce for some – and they could get behind if operations had to come to a halt.
“It’s good to see that the EPA isn’t jumping into something new,” said Les Hardesty, a local dairyman and crop farmer who holds a variety of positions in the dairy industry – locally and nationally. “I believe that the technology being further developed in the industry – no-till or limited-till practices and underground irrigation – will further take care of dust issues in the agriculture industry.
“Further regulation isn’t the answer.”
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This the first in a six-part series of articles covering basic water law in the United States, predominately in the western part of the country, and how it affects this finite resource.