WASHINGTON, D.C. - 51 Members of Congress concerned about preserving and protecting agriculture have written Carol Browner, Administrator of the Enviornmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging that she shelve air quality standards which are based on poor science, citing the new rules' potentially negative impact on agriculture.
"Please understand that, as representatives of residents living in rural areas, we want to ensure that our constituents are able to breathe the cleanest air possible. We also want to ensure that agricultural or industrial activity does not excessively contribute to air pollution which could affect other areas of the country. That being said, we want to express our strong reservations about the effect that this rule could have on the economic viability of the agricultural industry and the stability of domestic food and fiber production," the Members wrote.
"On April 23, 1997 the Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research held a hearing to examine the data in this proposal related to agriculture and the effect that this proposed rule could have on the agricultural industry. At the hearing, scientists who are agricultural experts indicated that much of the data used to identify PM emissions sources from agricultural operations was 'grossly in error.' These scientists also questioned the validity of claims regarding the effects of ozone on production agriculture and the benefits that could accrue from this rule," the Members wrote.
"Therefore, we believe that EPA must not move forward with this rule before this questionable data is corrected and adequate research is conducted," the Members wrote.
"It baffles me that EPA could propose air quality standards which are almost universally believed to be based on poor science. These new rules could have a potentially devastating effect on agriculture and must be carefully reviewed and tested. It's a lousy time to gamble with farmers' futures," said Rep. Bob Smith, Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture.
"Our hearing in the Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research Subcommittee showed how skeptical many scientists are about the proposed rules. Other examinations, here in Congress and by USDA's own Agricultural Air Quality Task Force, have been highly critical of the scientific basis for the new standards. EPA should have the grace to recognize what a mistake this is and go back to the drawing board," said Larry Combest, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research.
"All of us are concerned with air quality, and we want to see strong protections in place to safeguard human health and the environment. However, before EPA issues final regulations, it is essential that we have a full and open debate regarding unanswered questions about the scientific justification, benefits, costs, feasibility and alternatives to new air quality standards," said Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-TX), Ranking Democrat on the Committee.