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House Passes Dust Regulation Measure

Pete Lien, center, president of Pete Lien & Sons, testifies before the House Energy & Commerce Committee during hearing on control of dust in aggregate operations.

Pete Lien, center, president of Pete Lien & Sons, testifies before the House Energy & Commerce Committee during hearing on control of dust in aggregate operations.

On December 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, H.R. 1633, a bill to protect producers of resource-based products, including aggregates, as well as farmers and ranchers, from increased regulation of a naturally occurring substance. The bill passed with a vote of 258 to 150, with 33 Democrats joining all Republicans in favor.

“The House took a bold step yesterday providing much-needed certainty for our members in an industry that is swamped by the avalanche of endless federal regulations,” said Joy Wilson, president of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA). “If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were to proceed with reducing the current standard by half, as had been considered, a typical aggregates facility would have to cut production by up to two-thirds in order to comply, leading to additional plant closures and significant job loss at a time when aggregates production is down an average of 40 percent across the nation.”

The bipartisan bill, authored by Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Robert Hurt (R-Va.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) and Larry Kissel (D-N.C.), aims to prevent the EPA from imposing more stringent federal dust standards, addresses the threat of increased federal regulation of dust, and exempts nuisance dust from EPA regulation if it is already regulated by state, local, or tribal law. However, it does not exempt particulate matter generated by industrial facilities or power plants.

NSSGA member Pete Lien, president, Pete Lien & Sons, Rapid City, South Dakota, testified on Oct. 25 in support of the bill before a hearing of the House Energy & Power Subcommittee. In his testimony, he said, “Like agriculture, resource-based industries such as aggregates production have limited opportunities to reduce dust. Aggregates are used in nearly all residential, commercial and industrial building construction and in most public works projects. Some dust is generated at an aggregate operation by truck traffic and crushing stone; however, most is from uncontrollable sources such as from roads and windblown dust, particularly in rural areas.”

During debate on the House floor Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, offered an amendment to limit the term “nuisance dust” to exclude particulate matter produced from mining activities. Waxman’s amendment was defeated 257-158.

Although EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson previously announced the agency’s intent to propose retaining the current dust standards for the next five years, that could change during the rulemaking process or from resulting legal challenges. This legislation was drafted in order to provide certainty for the affected industries.

Based near the nation’s capital, NSSGA is the world’s largest mining association by product volume. Its member companies represent more than 90 percent of the crushed stone and 70 percent of the sand and gravel produced annually in the U.S. and approximately 106, 700 working men and women in the aggregates industry. During 2010 a total of nearly two billion metric tons of crushed stone, sand and gravel, valued at $17 billion, were produced and sold in the United States.

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