Monday, June 06, 2011
Range Fires Ignite Dispute
American cattle producers from Texas to Tennessee ship their herds each summer to the Flint Hills region of Kansas, where the animals bulk up on grass before they're dispatched to feedlots and then slaughtered. Ranchers help prime the sprawling pastures by torching them to burn out prairie brush, clearing the way for stands of big bluestem and other grasses that are cheap cattle feed. But the springtime fires also send up smoke that's tipping heartland cities into violations of clean-air regulations, the federal government says. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is threatening to restrain the Kansas range fires if ranchers' don't do so voluntarily, perhaps by burning only when wind doesn't blow the smoke over cities. The EPA's crackdown is kicking up a political storm in cattle country—a potential harbinger of high-stakes fights elsewhere as the agency prepares this summer to announce tougher clean-air standards nationwide.