Hurt's Dust Bill Is Blowing Smoke

Published 3:56 pm Thursday, December 29, 2011

Editor, The Herald:

The Herald of December 16th featured Rep. Hurt's handout on his latest activies in Washington, as well as a laudatory letter about Mr. Hurt's efforts in getting a “farm dust bill” through the House. This interested me because I had been following the “farm dust” flap for the past few weeks. Ginned up strictly for political purposes, Republican candidates had claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency was prepared to regulate the amount of dust generated during farming activities. After this scare story had circulated for several days, EPA issued a statement making it clear that it had no plans to regulate “farm dust” and that in any case, the regulation of particulate air pollution (dust and smoke) was the responsibility of the states.

Nevertheless, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to prevent what the EPA had no intention of doing, and in fact, only a limited ability to do, even if it wanted to. I was deeply dismayed when I read that my own congressman, Robert Hurt, was a coauthor of this unnecessary and flawed piece of political theater.

The bill is so broadly written that if it passes the Senate and is signed by President Obama, it can be used to weaken or eliminate restrictions on air pollution by mining, oil refining and other heavily polluting industries, creating regulatory uncertainty about standards that have been in place for years.

Checking out the story on the Fox News website, I also learned that it was the George W. Bush administration that had proposed tighter restrictions on “farm dust.” The Obama EPA has refused to single out “farm dust” for special regulation. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson condemned the misinformation campaign. “Congress should stop politicizing this issue and move on to passing meaningful legislation to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” Fox News quoted.

Exactly right. The House of Representatives is wasting precious time on useless, irrelevant, but politically rewarding legislation, and meantime doing nothing to help economic recovery. Their latest stunt is to raise taxes on the beleaguered middle class by blocking the extension of the payroll tax cut. A recent survey reported on Nate Silver's 538 blog showed that the approval rating for congress among Americans is now two points lower than that for communism!

Yet, as is well known, while deeply disapproving of Congress, most Americans think very highly of their own congressman. We will reform congress only when we realized that Congress consists of the people we elect and send there; if Congress disappoints us, we must send somebody else. And since Mr. Hurt has admitted (in a front page interview in The Herald) that he doesn't like being in Congress anyway, we should take advantage of the 2012 election to replace him.

Bill Shear

Prince Edward