U.S. Senator Mike Johanns, R-Neb., has introduced three pieces of legislation that, he says, would ease the regulatory burdens that have been inhibiting American business' ability to create jobs. One bill would freeze federal agencies' ability to impose most new rules and regulations, while a second would close loopholes that have led to federal agencies expanding their powers by circumventing Congressional oversight. A third bill would explicitly prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating farm dust.
Senator Chuck Grassley is a co-author of the dust regulation bill. According to the bill takes a two prong approach to keep the EPA from regulating farm dust. First, it prevents the EPA from revising the current dust standard for one year from date of enactment. And the bill also provides flexibility for states, localities, and tribes to regulate "nuisance dust."
The loophole that allows agencies to regulate without Congressional review by using so-called guidance documents instead of formal rules is particularly troubling. Speaking on the Senate floor, Johanns brought up EPA-Army Corps guidance.
According to the EPA's own analysis the guidance would significantly extend the waters of the United States subject to federal control and regulation," Johanns said. "The American Farm Bureau has said the guidance quote, defines jurisdiction in the broadest way possible."
Johanns accuses the administration of circumventing and stretching the law after Congress thwarted its efforts last year.
"So the legislation I introduce today closes the loophole," Johanns said. "It amends the Congressional Review Act to cover both traditional rules and guidance documents. No more end run around Congress. Consequently agencies would be on notice that the loophole through which they intend to circumvent our will and the will of the American public is now a closed door."
Meantime Johanns will try with another measure to head off a still-possible EPA dust rule for a year, after which EPA could tighten its standard only if it proved adverse health effects and net benefits versus cost.
"Despite what the administrator is saying in farm country the EPA is still in the midst of their review of the National Ambient Air Quality for Particulate Matter, or put simply, farm dust," Johanns said. "In rural America farm dust is a fact of life. I grew up on a farm, it's dusty there."
Johanns points out that farm dust has long been considered to have no health concern at ambient levels. Yet he says EPA wants to ratchet down the current standard to a level that would be economically devastating to many in rural areas.