Noem’s dust bill creates a fog

Ever since I heard of Rep. Kristi Noem’s bill to stop the EPA from regulating “farm dust” – defined as “coarse particulate matter” rather than the “fine particulate matter” of garden variety air pollution – I was reminded of John Thune’s 2009 campaign to stop the agency from implementing a “cow tax.”

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., at Tuesday's hearing on her bill to delay the EPA from regulating "farm dust" for a year. (Photo from Noem's House website)

But where Thune had a declaration from the EPA stating that carbon dioxide, methane and other gases were “major hazards” to Americans’ health as a springboard, Noem has a much weaker 5-year agency review.

Still, I wasn’t ready to waive off the issue as some of Noem’s political opponents have done. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine an EPA scientist/bureaucrat toiling away in a nondescript DC building issuing a recommendation to examine coarse particulate matter in preparation for the agency’s 5-year review.

Add a bloated lobbyist/operative class looking for mischief, stir and serve.

Then something Noem said on her weekly conference call with reporters on Thursday set off my reporter’s radar like a Goodyear Blimp. 

This just guarantees the EPA won’t be able to change those standards for next year. …

This freezes the standard for next year regarding national ambient air quality standards. They can still come forward during the midst of their reviews and make changes for the future.

Uh, next year? The MDR West River investigative bureau sprang into action. I read the bill. It’s short even by SD Legislature standards and downright micro by Capitol Hill standards. Here’s the language on the timeframe:

      Before the date that is one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency may not propose, finalize, implement, or enforce any regulation revising the national primary ambient air quality standard or the national secondary ambient air quality standard applicable to particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter greater than 2.5 micrometers under section 109 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7409).

It doesn’t go further than that. There isn’t another section that augments or extends anything.

If farm dust regulation is such a threat to our economy, indeed to our very way of life in SD, why would this bill, given all the grief it creates, hold off the EPA for a measely year? Could the point be what Noem said on her Thursday call:  

To have that certainty in law is very important for ag producers.

It’s difficult to  define a year’s moratorium as “certainty.” So maybe the point is all the grief. MDR editor Seth Tupper’s column in today’s paper would seem to reinforce that:

“The Environmental Protection Agency is out to do us all in,” Noem said [in Mitchell in June], “and close all our businesses.”

What can one say about that except, “Good grief.”


3 thoughts on “Noem’s dust bill creates a fog

  1. Well, jeez. Something tells me this isn’t about the small South Dakota farms.

    “A coalition that includes a mining company, the Kennecott Utah Copper, as well as the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Corn Refiners Association, testified in support of the legislation.”

    Have you met those guys? Are they your neighbors? Has anyone ever visited the Kennecott Utah Copper farm? Or the mining company farm? Why couldn’t she find some of the farmers who she says are so concerned about this issue to testify? She said it’s one of the MOST overwhelming concerns presented to her by her farming constituents. Seems a bit fishy…

    That, combined with her insane quote “The Environmental Protection Agency is out to do us all in,” she said, “and close all our businesses” makes me think this piece of corporate-polluter backed legislation is an embarrassment to South Dakota.

    I get that it costs more to do business in an environmentally-friendly manner. That’s too bad. Everyone seems to be very concerned about our fiscal deficit and what debt we will be giving to our children, but what about our environmental deficit? Aren’t we spending our natural resources much faster than we can replace them?

    *Kennecott Utah Copper’s revenue last year was $1.8 Billion dollars. I’m sure they make some hefty campaign donations to keep the status quo, or roll back regulations, don’t you think?

  2. Great writing Denise!

    I voted for Noem but this bill makes her look silly. Anyone who knows Kristi knows she has to be right and she will want to make people agree with her but it appears she is losing this battle.

    Noem is used to being the big fish but she is starting to get upset at not being taken seriously.

    Noem is not very optimistic anymore either. The best of the USA is still to come but all I ever hear from her is that everything is much worse than she imagined. I worry she is in over her head but I don’t want Varilek or Barth instead.

  3. Ah, but check out Section 3 of Noem’s bill. That goes way beyond simply handcuffing the EPA on this issue for a year. It exempts rural nuisance dust completely from the Clean Air Act. That’s why Pete Lien was in D.C. to testify for the bill with Noem. He’s no farmer. He’s not restrained by uncertainty. He and all sorts of other mining operations and power plants and other major industries located in rural areas want to be able to shift more of their externalities onto the common person.

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