Ag Groups Seek Answer on Idaho Dust Rule

Published online: Apr 10, 2014 Sean Ellis, Capital Press
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BOISE, IdahoIdaho farm leaders and environmental regulators will use the state’s negotiated rule-making process to try to reach an agreement over a 1972 fugitive dust law.

The rule allows regulators to control fugitive emissions and provides for fines up to $10,000. Idaho’s agricultural industry is concerned the law could be used to fine agricultural practices that create dust.

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials say the agency has no intention of using the rule to target normal agricultural practices but it’s what DEQ considers to be normal farming practices that concerns industry representatives.

Farm groups first became aware of the law last year after a southwestern Idaho farmer who was fined for creating dust on his property while grinding grain turned to state Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, for help.

After several meetings with DEQ officials, both sides agreed it was best to address the issue through the negotiated rule-making process, said Batt, a former farmer.

“The industry seems to be very pleased with the direction we’re going,” she said. “We’re hoping (DEQ) will clarify that the regulation of fugitive dust does not apply to agricultural operations and generally accepted agricultural practices.”

The grinding of grain is a normal occurrence at feedlots and the dust rule is a major concern of the Idaho Cattle Association (ICA), which participated in the meetings with DEQ officials.

“We’re satisfied to go that direction, and we will be part of the process throughout the negotiated rule-making,” said ICA executive vice president Wyatt Prescott. “A lot of agricultural production doesn’t happen directly on the farm and those things need to … be protected.”

The fugitive dust rule states that its purpose is “to require that all reasonable precautions be taken to prevent the generation of fugitive dust.”

Idaho Grain Producers Association executive director Travis Jones said that’s too broad and it’s important to spell out in rule form that normal farming practices can’t be fined for creating dust.

“Right now we have a very commonsense DEQ administration,” he said. “But we want to make sure that we have certainty about this DEQ rule for years to come.”

The negotiated rule-making process allows all affected parties, as well as special interest groups and members of the public who have an interest in the regulation of air emissions, to participate.

It allows people to bring all kinds of ideas to the table and engage in a free-flowing discussion, said Tiffany Floyd, who heads the DEQ’s air quality division.

“We think it’s a good approach,” she said. “DEQ has found that when you use the negotiated rule-making process, you come up with something better in the end.”

Following the negotiations, DEQ will publish a proposed rule that is subject to approval by the 2015 Idaho Legislature.

Source: Capital Press