Oregon and 10 other states have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the goal of forcing it to issue tougher rules on very fine air pollution known as PM 2.5. If they succeed and tougher rules then apply to agricultural dust, Willamette Valley farmers will want to know who authorized that suit.
We’ve asked the Justice Department about this. A spokesman said agricultural dust has not been subject to environmental controls. But that was exactly the controversy last year when there was talk that farm dust would be regulated by the EPA.
At the time, the EPA told Congress it did not want to go ahead with new PM 2.5 regulations, and that put at least a temporary stop to the flap about putting farmers out of business by regulating dust.
Now, lawyers for Oregon and those other states seem to want to poke that hornet’s nest and stir it up again. The AG's office points out that PM 2.5 air pollution is responsible for a large number of illnesses and even premature deaths. But farm dust in the valley is a very temporary thing, in late summer and early fall.
The last thing Oregon needs is to make life even tougher on farmers.
With this kind of lawsuit in mind, Oregon might need some public process to determine whether actions should be filed in the name of the residents and taxpayers of this state.
As an elected official, the attorney general can do what he thinks he must. But if his actions go against the public interest, there must be a way to trim that office holder’s discretion and make it subject to review. (hh)