Agriculture Committee Leaders Seek Moratorium on Air Quality Regs, Push Bi-Partisan Bill to Force Scientific Monitoring, Analysts

Jul 31, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Stepping up their effort to counter new air quality regulations which could severly threaten agriculture, senior members of the House Committee on Agriculture are urging fellow lawmakers to support a bill (H.R. 1984) mandating a four-year mortatorium on the new regulations, which go into effect on September 16.

Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR), Vice Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX), and Ranking Minority Member Charles Stenholm (D-TX) are urging fellow House Members to support H.R. 1984, a bill introduced by Rep. Ron Klink (D-PA), Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) to place a four-year moratorium on new air standards and authorize an extensive monitoring and analysis program on their effect. The Members are circulating a letter to the entire House of Representatives, urging other Congressmen to sign on to H.R. 1984. That letter and other information on the new air standards follows this release.

"These new rules could have a potentially devastating effect on agriculture and must be carefully reviewed and tested. No fewer than five federal agencies in this Administration opposed these regulations. I don't know why EPA is so bent on rolling the dice with such a huge impact on our economy at risk, but it's a lousy time to gamble with farmers' futures. The potential job loss is enormous, and for agriculture, we could really be headed into uncharted territory," Rep. Bob Smith, Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, said today.

"Before EPA can honestly claim to clean the air, it must clear the air by doing it's scientific homework. I have had agricultural scientists testify that EPA's efforts are not even based on sound science. As a result, I am convinced that EPA air regulation changes will smother family farming," Rep. Larry Combest said.

"I believe these regulations will result in tremendous cost burdens for agriculture, industry, and small businesses, without yielding any tangible health benefit in return. The scientific uncertainties associated with these regulations need further scrutiny before we proceed with onerous regulations which may prove devastating to our economy, and I intend to fight the promulgation of this rule until I am satisfied that there is scientific justification for these new standards," said Rep. Charlie Stenholm.

On May 14, Chairman Smith, Rep. Combest, Rep. Stenholm, and 48 other Members of Congress concerned about agriculture wrote Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner urging that the new standards be shelved pending greater, more complete scientific inquiry. The Members continue to be concerned that EPA has failed to adequately consult with the agriculture scientists on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Air Quality Task Force.

Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district, which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon, is heavily dependent on agriculture. Combest represents Texas' 19th Congressional District, which includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and the Permian Basin. Stenholm represents Texas' 17th Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.