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EPA: No need to cry over spilled milk

April 12, 2011

In her testimony a month ago before the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency never had any plans to subject spilled milk to the Oil Pollution Spill Control Countermeasure rule.

The rule applies to farmers who store more than 1,320 gallons of fuel oil.   They are required to develop and implement plans to prevent and respond to oil spills.

Leading up to the committee hearing, members of Congressnewspaper opinion pages, and farm groups used the potential of SPCC regulation of spilled milk as an example of EPA regulators gone wild.

In her testimony, Jackson called the milk rule one of the five regulatory myths and mischaracterizations (dust, cow tax, spray drift, and national numeric nutrient standards) of EPA agricultural regulation pervasive in rural America.  

I would argue each of the myths or mischaracterizations have more of a basis in fact than the administrator would care to publicly admit.

In the hearing, Jackson said EPA was working with the milk industry to exempt spilled milk from the decades old regulation and blamed lawmakers for writing a broad statue.

And finally is the notion that EPA intends to treat spilled milk in the same way as spilled oil. This is simply incorrect. Rather, EPA has proposed, and is on the verge of finalizing an exemption for milk and dairy containers. This exemption needed to be finalized because the law passed by Congress was written broadly enough to cover milk containers. It was our work with the dairy industry that prompted EPA to develop an exemption and make sure the standards of the law are met in a commonsense way. All of EPA’s actions have been to exempt these containers. And we expect this to become final very shortly.

Today, EPA announced that it has officially given milk a pass.   In a news release, Jackson said it would save the milk and dairy industries about $140 million per year.

In response to feedback from the agriculture community, EPA determined  that this unintended result of the current regulations – which were designed to prevent oil spill damage to inland waters and shorelines –placed unjustifiable burdens on dairy farmers. To ensure that this outdated rule didn’t harm the agriculture community while the mandatory regulatory process proceeded, EPA had delayed SPCC compliance requirements for milk and milk product containers several times since the SPCC rule went into effect. Today’s formal rule change reflects EPA’s commitment to common-sense, responsive, and transparent rule making. It’s also consistent with the president’s executive order on improving regulations.

In the name of common sense, let’s hope EPA clears up some of the other “myths” in the same fashion.

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