Friday, September 24, 2004

Sen. Craig?s dairy dodge

All American consumers acknowledge the importance of virtually every business that produces goods or services that make the economy go around and the U.S. lifestyle the world?s envy.

But with the right to conduct profit-making enterprises, businesses also bear understandable responsibilities to customers as well as to communities.

Idaho?s U.S. Sen. Larry Craig doesn?t seem to agree with or understand that ages-old maxim.

Craig, ever the cunning lawmaker, is scouting for a piece of major legislation with other intentions into which he can sneak special language to provide the dairy industry with a special exemption from certain state and federal air quality rules and regulations.

Why, you ask. Well, the senator?s spokesman, Mike Tracy, says it?s to protect dairies, which have proliferated in Twin Falls County, from being driven ?out of business? by so many laws. The Idaho Dairymen?s Association has another slant. It says the exemption is needed because air quality laws covering dairies actually were meant for smokestack polluters--as if insufferably noxious odors from dairies aren?t an air quality problem.

Nonsense. If all U.S. business enterprises were given exemptions from every law that CEOs or trade groups insisted would ?drive them out of business,? thousands of laws that have benefited consumer health, protected food, increased vehicle mileage, provided clear air protections from industry, guaranteed better schools, improved roads, made air travel safer, and heaven knows what else would be stricken from the books.

Even the Defense Department isn?t immune from being regulated: It is now cleaning up all sorts of weapons testing ranges and base fuel spills to remove toxic wastes.

Agreed, dairy products are an absolute essential to the well being of people. But like other industries that have met environmental and product safety problems head-on and solved them with technology, dairymen should stop whining, stop relying on political fixers such as Sen. Craig to grandfather their failings into law and get on with solutions.

Collection lagoons for cow manure are an ancient technology and a major source of intolerable, acrid fumes that not only are wearisome but outright dangerous for the health of a community.

If the dairy industry thinks the costs of eliminating dairy fumes is burdensome, they should contemplate this: Imagine their costs if new diagnostic health technologies were to discover that diary fumes actually have caused serious health injuries.

Then dairies would be paying out millions of dollars in damages and legal court costs, just as the tobacco, automotive, nuclear, chemical and fossil fuel industries have done lately.

For Sen. Craig?s part, his misguided, antiquated approach of ignoring an air quality problem by helping a polluting industry to duck its responsibility in the end hurts the health and quality of life in communities that rely on laws to protect their well-being.

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