Buckeye Farm News
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can regulate dust kicked up by farm machinery and other rural activities, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) had challenged U.S. EPA regulations, saying the agency failed to show that rural dust causes adverse health effects.
“Most disappointing is that the court suggested industry had the burden of proving that dust from agricultural sources was safe, rather than EPA proving within a margin of safety that the emissions caused harm,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said.
How this ruling will impact Ohio farmers is yet to be determined, said Adam Sharp, Ohio Farm Bureau’s senior director of legislative and regulatory policy.
“Each state develops their own state plan for meeting their obligations under the Clean Air Act. These plans do not have to include agriculture, but states will have to demonstrate how they will meet clean air goals,” he said.
That means the Ohio EPA has the option of regulating rural dust as part of its state implementation plan for air quality. But the U.S. EPA has the final say on the plan, which is required for states to receive full highway funding, Sharp said.
Rural dust is typically made up of relatively large particles known as course particulate matter and has been more of an air quality issue in the arid Southwest. Because there are currently no areas in Ohio that exceed the threshold for this type of dust, it appears agriculture does not have a significant negative impact on air quality, Sharp said.
“We feel the cost of new regulations would likely far outweigh any environmental benefit,” he said.
AFBF Regulatory Specialist Paul Shlegel said the ruling could open the door for environmental lawsuits against farm operations. But it is unclear how states will interpret the regulations, he said.
“Could they require that you only operate your vehicles at a certain time of day or at times when the dust will be less likely to affect people or after precipitation? We don’t know exactly what it’s going to be,” he said.