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Jackson takes on EPA myths

DANIEL LOOKER 04/13/2011 @ 2:20pm Business Editor

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says that some of the things you know about her agency are simply myths.

Jackson has been attending hearings on Capitol Hill so often lately that members of Congress have jokingly offered her a permanent packing space, one of her aides told Agriculture.com

Earlier this week, the sometimes embattled officer of President Obama’s Cabinet met for a few minutes with members of North American Agricultural Journalists to bust a few myths. Among them:

  1. The Cow Tax. This rumor was circulating before the debate on climate change legislation in Congress and may have been just one nail in the coffin of cap and trade legislation that passed the House but is considered unlikely before 2012. Methane from cattle are a small contributor to greenhouse gases but “there’s no cow tax and there’s never been a plan to tax cows,” Jackson said.
  2. Dust. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must review its standards for particulate matter, Jackson said. But that doesn’t mean the agency will necessarily change from the current standards. Agency staff understand that it’s impractical to plant or harvest without any dust. Jackson said that fine particulates can have an affect on human health, but “wait before you get too worried about spending money and changing systems in rural America,” she said.
  3. Spray drift. EPA has no plans to require no spray drift, she said. “We do not have a no  spray-drift policy and we will not have one,” she said.
  4. Milk as a pollutant. The EPA won’t treat spills of milk the same way it treats oil spills. Jackson said the agency has met with representatives of the dairy industry and this week it announced that milk is exempt from its oil spill protection rules. (Senator Chuck Grassley, a frequent critic of EPA, said Tuesday that “The agency seems oblivious to the tremendous impact its rules and regulations have on the general public and agriculture in particular.  I appreciate EPA finally getting the job done and doing the right thing in this instance.”)
  5. Ethanol. The renewable fuel standard does consider ethanol to have a low enough carbon footprint to qualify for mandates to use the fuel. Jackson said it did not in its first draft of the rules for the updated standard required by the 2007 energy low, but after it got better information, corn-based ethanol did meet the level of greenhouse gas emissions required by the law, a 20% cut compared to gasoline.

Jackson said that her agency has already had five meetings to listen to farmers’ concerns about dust rules and she’s been visiting farms. Her next trip to hear from farmers will be shortly, to Iowa, she said.

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